DRUMMONDVILLE, March 19, 2017
In his first appearance at an ATP World Tour Challenger final, Denis Shapovalov from Canada triumphed by a score of 6-3, 6-2 against Ruben Bemelmans from Belgium at the at the $75,000 Drummondville National Bank Challenger which was held at the local René-Verrier indoor tennis club.
The first set was tightly disputed, with both players taking advantage of their strong left-handed serve. Shapovalov got two early break point opportunities, but failed to convert on either of them. He then faced a break point of his own, but managed to serve his way out of trouble. The 17-year-old Canadian took advantage of his opponent’s service struggles late in the set and finally got the first break of the match, when Bemelmans double faulted. He followed up his break with a strong service game. Backed by an encouraging crowd, Shapovalov closed out the opening set 6-3 in a little over a half an hour, totaling five aces in the process.
In the first service game of the second set, the Canadian teenager put pressure on his Belgian opponent, firing an impressive passing shot to go up an early break. He consolidated his break with a hold at love on his serve. Throughout the set, Shapovalov constantly challenged Bemelmans’ serve and was rewarded with another break late in the set to take a commanding lead. The Canadian then had the opportunity to serve out the match in front of a sold-out crowd. He made quick work of his final service game, serving his way to the championship 6-3, 6-2 after 67 minutes.
After the match, Shapovalov was asked about his match. “It was tough, this being my first Challenger final. I started off a little bit nervous, I was having trouble holding on my serve, but I knew if I could stay in the rallies, then I would get my chances”, stated the first time ATP Challenger champion. “I think I did very well competing and making sure I had a chance to win today.”
In a match that opposed a young player on the rise against a more experienced opponent, Shapovalov showcased his talent and his place amongst the professionals. The Canadian held his own during the entire tournament, having eliminated elite players such as Edward Corrie, the runner-up at last year’s tournament, Quentin Halys, the tournament’s third seed, and Felix Auger-Aliassime, another young promising Canadian player.
Throughout the tournament, the youngster played some excellent tennis and was able to rely on his weapon of choice, his serve. He totaled 40 aces throughout the course of the week, which was the highest total by any player at the tournament.
When asked about his victory, Shapovalov was clearly excited to have won first ATP Challenger title. “It’s an incredible feeling to win my first Challenger event here in Canada and its my second title in three weeks. I am playing great tennis at the moment. I have a lot of confidence right now and hope to continue this in Mexico.”
With his win, Shapovalov will climb into the top 200 of the ATP rankings, a first in his young career. This win also represents a number of achievements for the Canadian player. He is the youngest Canadian to lift a Challenger trophy. He is also the third Canadian to clinch an ATP Challenger title in the past four years, with Frank Dancevic winning in Kosice, Slovakia in 2014 and Peter Polansky in Gatineau last year.
There will be no time to rest for the young Canadian, who leaves on Monday for a series of ATP Challenger events in Mexico.