Drummondville, March 19, 2017
Denis Shapovalov from Richmond Hill triumphed in the first pro-level meeting between two of Canada’s top young players, beating Montreal native Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-5, 6-3 in Saturday’s semi-finals at the $75,000 Drummondville National Bank Challenger, held at the local René-Verrier indoor tennis club.
In the first set, the Canadian players with a combined age of 34,51 years, traded early break points before settling down. Up 6-5, Shapovalov had two set points with Auger-Aliassime serving, but hit the ball long, which ended back-to-back rallies and let his opponent back in the game. On the next set point, it was the 16-year-old Montrealer’s turn to be betrayed by the baseline, firing long as Shapovalov wrapped up the opening frame 7-5.
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Auger-Aliassime looked to bounce right back in the second set and had Shapovalov on the run. However, the older of the two young sensations maintained his composure and served his way out of trouble. As they had in the first set, the players again traded one break point each until the end, where Shapovalov once more edged ahead, breaking Auger-Aliassime before serving out the set and match, 7-5, 6-3 after one hour and 13 minutes.
Despite the loss, Auger-Aliassime had nothing but kind words for his opponent. “We both started the match a little nervous, me especially, but playing against a great player like Denis requires focus. He was solid from the start to the end. He is a great player and I wish him luck for tomorrow’s final.”
The semi-final victory for Shapovalov over his good friend lands him in a final for the second time this month. Two weeks ago, the 17-year-old took the ITF Pro Circuit title in Gatineau beating Gleb Sakharov of France.
After his win on Saturday afternoon, Shapovalov was candid about the match against his friend. “It was a little bit difficult playing a good buddy of mine, of course, but I treated it as if it wasn’t Felix on the other side. I think I did a good job of that and we both played some incredible tennis today.”
It will be Shapovalov’s first final on the ATP Challenger Tour, where he will be facing Belgium’s Ruben Bemelmans, who dispatched John Patrick Smith of Australia 6-4, 6-1. The fourth seed won 83 per cent of his first service point, saved all of the five break points he faced, converting four of his own to secure victory in 65 minutes.
Later on Saturday, top seeds Sam Groth of Australia and Canadian Adil Shamasdin defeated second favourits Matt Reid and John-Patrick Smith from Australia in the doubles final 6-3, 2-6, 10-8. The encounter lasted 62 minutes. This was Shamasdin’s third consecutive doubles title at an ATP Challenger event.