Tsitsipas Prevails Over Auger-Aliassime In #NextGenATP Battle At Shanghai Masters

Stefanos Tsitsipas (photo: Rolex Shanghai Masters/Mike Frey)

SHANGHAI, October 9, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)

Stefanos Tsitsipas beat fellow #NextGenATP star Felix Auger-Aliassime for the first time to advance to the third round of the Rolex Shanghai Masters in Shanghai, China. It took two tie-breakers to get the job done but Tsitsipas accomplished the task with a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (3) victory in two hours and three minutes on Center Court Wednesday.

In two previous head-to-head meetings this year, the 19-year-old Auger-Aliassime had beaten Tsitsipas, 21, at Indian Wells on an outdoor hard court (6-4, 6-2) and at Queen’s Club in London on grass (7-5, 6-2). This was the first time going back to their junior days that Tsitsipas had taken a set from the Canadian.

The sixth seed from Greece, who won the 2018 Next Gen ATP Finals and is next in line to qualify for the Nitto ATP Finals in November, will face 34th-ranked Hubert Hurkacz of Poland on Thursday.

“I knew it’s going to be tough, and it was very tough,” said Tsitsipas, quoted by the ATP website. “I think, mostly, the concentration that I have put and the work that I have put into that match, I still felt like I had to put a lot in order to get that outcome at the end.”

As the 2019 season winds down and with less than five weeks remaining until London, Tsitsipas bolstered his chances by adding 90 points to his 2019 ATP Race To London tally (sixth place) for 3,460 points overall. Auger-Aliassime, now 33-22 on the season, clinched a berth in the Next Gen ATP Finals in November on Tuesday.

“I know that in order to see my name among the (big) titles, I’m going to have to go through a lot of pain and a lot of hype and struggle,” said Tsitsipas, who won two titles earlier this year in Marseille and Estoril. “I’m honestly excited. I’m excited. I’m excited by the idea of trying to get there.”

Djokovic remains unbeaten against Shapovalov

World No. 1 and top seed Novak Djokovic began his title defence at the Rolex Shanghai Masters with a 6-3, 6-3 triumph over Denis Shapovalov of Canada. The victory was the 22nd straight on the Asia continent for Djokovic, who hit 21 winners and converted three of six break points during his 70-minute second-round match against the 20-year-old Shapovalov.

“It’s nice to be back. And also, it feels very good to play as well as I did today,” said the 33-time Masters 1000 titlist Djokovic, who previously beat Shapovalov earlier this season at the Australian Open and in Rome. “I knew that Denis is very dangerous player. If he has time, if he’s feeling the ball well, it can be a tough match.”

Djokovic won 89 percent (31 of 35) of his first-serve points and converted eight of 12 (67 percent) second-serve opportunities. He outpointed Shapovalov 66-40.

“He was serving really well, high percentage also first serves, and just really difficult to return in the first set, so it took me a little bit of time to really adjust, start reading his serve a little bit better,” said Djokovic.

“But I thought I served really well. I used angles. I was very solid from back of the court. I had no problems with the shoulder pain. … Everything is feeling and looking good.”

Next, Djokovic will oppose American John Isner, who hit 19 aces and lost only six first-service points during a 7-5, 6-3 victory over 22nd-ranked Lucas Pouille of France. The No. 16 seed Isner moved to within two aces of 1,000 aces for the season.

Thiem remains in terrific form

Fresh off his China Open victory last weekend, fourth seed Dominic Thiem of Austria remained in terrific form following his 7-6 (3), 6-3 win over 37th-ranked Pablo Carreño Busta from Spain. It advanced him to the last 16 on Thursday against No. 15 seed Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia.

Thiem, who has won eight of his last 10 hard-court matches, served 11 aces and hit 36 winners during his one hour and 47 minute Center Court match. His aggressive demeanor paid dividends against Carreño Busta as he won 57 of his 82 points on rallies that lasted five shots or less. He saved all four break points he faced and converted one of six break points to reach the Shanghai third round for the first time.

Around the Shanghai Masters

• Fifth seed Alexander Zverev from Germany saved three set points during a 16-minute first-set tie-break, then came back from down 3-5 in the second set to beat 71st-ranked qualifier Jeremy Chardy of France, 7-6 (13), 7-6 (3), for his 38th win on the ATP Tour this season. It was Chardy’s 10th straight loss to a Top 10 player. Zverev, who is currently in eighth place in the ATP Race To London standings, will face 33rd-ranked Andrey Rublev of Russia in the last 16. Rublev defeated John Millman from Australia, ranked 58th, 6-2, 6-0.

• Seventh seed Karen Khachanov from Russia beat 29th-ranked Taylor Fritz of the United States, 6-2, 6-4, dropping just eight points on his serve, to set up a third-round meeting with No. 10 seed Fabio Fognini of Italy.

• No. 11 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy advanced with a solid 6-3, 6-3 win over 32nd-ranked Cristian Garin from Chile. Next, he will face 2016 Shanghai finalist and eighth seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, who beat Reilly Opelka of the United States, 6-4, 7-5, despite the American’s 18 service aces.

• No. 13 seed David Goffin of Belgium advanced by retirement over 57th-ranked Mikhail Kukushkin from Kazakhstan, after leading 6-2, 3-0. Next, Goffin will oppose second seed and two-time Shanghai Masters champion Roger Federer from Switzerland.

Cabal/Farah clinch year-end No. 1 doubles ranking

Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, both from Colombia, clinched the year-end No. 1 ATP Doubles team ranking for the first time after beating Americans John Isner and Sam Querrey, 6-0, 6-4, on Wednesday.

Cabal and Farah, who have won five titles this season – including Wimbledon and the US Open – and have reached seven finals, are the second all-South American team to finish year-end No. 1 in the history of the ATP Doubles team rankings, following Hans Gildemeister of Chile and Andres Gomez of Ecuador in 1986.

“It’s been amazing and a crazy run this year,” said Cabal. “It’s unreal, we’re really happy and proud about what we have achieved. We have kept things simple and kept the hunger to achieve this amazing achievement.”

Farah added: “It is a great achievement and I will be very happy and honoured to receive the year-end No. 1 doubles trophy. I’ve been dreaming about this forever, so to make it a reality is pretty cool.”

What they’re saying

• When former No. 1 and three-time Rolex Shanghai Masters champion Andy Murray lost his first-round match to No. 10 seed Fabio Fognini, 7-6 (4), 2-6, 7-6 (2), on Tuesday night, the British wild card was trying to record the biggest win of his comeback since undergoing hip surgery earlier this year. Currently ranked No. 289, Murray was also trying to become the lowest-ranked player to reach the round of 16 at an ATP Masters 1000 tournament since No. 467-ranked American Taylor Dent at the 2009 Miami Open.

“There is a lot of things that I need to get better at, and I can do much better,” said Murray after his loss to the World No. 12 Fognini from Italy. “I will go away and I’ll work on those things and be in a better position next time I play against him.

“I served for the match twice (at 5-4 and 6-5 in the third set) and lost after three hours, so, I want to say that’s the first time ever in my career that that’s happened. I don’t know. But I think it’s the first time I served for a match twice and not won. So I’m disappointed about that.”

During his post-match press conference, Murray was asked to comment on his remaining 2019 schedule. He said he would play in next week’s ATP 250 event in Antwerp, Belgium, then represent Great Britain in the season-ending Davis Cup competition in Madrid.

• Four-time Rolex Shanghai Masters champion Novak Djokovic on why Shanghai fans are among his favorites: “My love affair with Shanghai started in 2008 for me when I won my Tennis Masters Cup here. They make me feel like at home. They’re very friendly. They do things that I don’t think any other fans do around the world. They wait for you in front of the hotel. They give you presents. They have amazing gestures. They’re ready to wait for the entire day just have a photo, to say hello.”