Shapovalov Happy With Where His Game Is, Shocks Zverev At Australian Open

Denis Shapovalov (photo: Australian Open video)

MELBOURNE/WASHINGTON, January 23, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Just a few days after being pushed to five sets in his second match of this year’s Australian Open, Denis Shapovalov didn’t expect that his fourth-round match against World No. 3 Alexander Zverev Saturday afternoon would be any walk in the park. And it wasn’t.

As it turned out, though, the 22-year-old Canadian needed just three sets to beat the Olympic gold medalist on Margaret Court Arena, winning 6-3, 7-6 (5), 6-3, in two hours and 22 minutes. The victory advanced Shapovalov into the quarterfinal round at Melbourne Park.

“It’s probably the one I least expected to finish in three,” Shapovalov admitted during his on-court interview after he ousted Zverev. “I’m very happy with my performance, definitely happy with where my game is at.”

Shapovalov put up a lot of crooked numbers on the scoreboard, serving three aces and hitting 35 winners to 37 unforced errors and winning 81 percent (22 of 27) of his opportunities at the net. He withstood 18 winners hit by Zverev, but the German didn’t help himself out by committing 32 unforced errors.

“I give credit to Denis,” Zverev said in his press conference. “It’s incredible he’s in the quarters. I think he deserves it. He’s done a lot of work. He’s improved his game.

“But I’ve got to look at myself, as well. Today was just, in my opinion, awful from my side.”

The victory was just the second win Shapovalov has achieved against a Top 5 player. However, it was a big one that lifted him into his third Grand Slam quarterfinal. Meanwhile, Zverev dropped to 4-15 against Top 20 competition.

“I think off the ground I was playing really well, really feeling my shots off both wings,” said Shapovalov, who will face World No. 5 and sixth seed Rafael Nadal in Tuesday’s quarterfinals. “I played pretty smart today. It felt like things were going my way early on. I lost a little bit of momentum mid-way in the second set but fought well to come back and just kind of rolled with it after.”

Nadal owns a 3-1 head-to-head advantage over Shapovalov. The Canadian’s only victory came on a memorable evening at the Rogers Cup in Montreal back in 2017, when he was just 17.

“It’s always an honor to go up against a guy like Rafa,” Shapovalov said. “It’s always going to be a battle against him. It’s going to be a tough one and I’m definitely going to enjoy it.”

Nadal reaches 14th Australian Open quarterfinal

Rafael Nadal, the only player remaining in the men’s draw who has won the Australian Open, is into the Melbourne quarterfinals for the 14th time after defeating No. 69 Adrian Mannarino of France, 7-6 (14), 6-2, 6-2, in the fourth-round on Rod Laver Arena Sunday afternoon. The two-hour and 40-minute victory moved Nadal to within three wins of a record-breaking 21st major singles title.

Nadal hit 16 winners and 42 winners against Mannarino and won 86 percent (42 of 49) of his first-serve points. He broke his opponent five times and outpointed him 107-85.

The triumph over Mannarino extended Nadal’s streak to 21 straight wins against left-handed players. It didn’t come easy. Winning the match was only half the battle as the two competitors locked up in a nearly-29-minute (28 minutes, 40 seconds) first-set tie break that Nadal eked out 16-14 after saving four set points. It was the focal point of the 81-minute first set. The opening set took longer than the second and third sets combined.

Later, Nadal had a chance to reflect upon the 30-point tie break, in which the momentum swung back and forth and the fans became enamored with seeing their Spanish hero prevail. Finally, Nadal volleyed from near the baseline and the decisive point was decided on a 25-shot rally.

“Well, you know, I played a couple [of long tiebreakers],” Nadal said, “but, yeah, [it was] a crazy one, chances for both. And, yeah, luck to win that tiebreak at the end, no?

“Half of the match in the tiebreak, without a doubt.”

Nadal called the first set a very emotional one. He added: “Anything could happen there. I was a little bit lucky at the end.

“Everybody knows how mentally tough this game is. It was a tough one and after that crazy first set, I think it was so important the break at the beginning of the second set.”

Nadal wrapped up his fourth victory of the tournament with his seventh ace to advance against Shapovalov, who is 13 years his junior.

“Shapovalov is a player with amazing potential,” Nadal said in press. “Everybody knows that when he’s playing well, it’s very difficult to stop him with [his] big serve, amazing forehand, and very quick.”

Berrettini sets up emotional rematch with Monfils

Finally, last year’s Wimbledon finalist Matteo Berrettini advanced to the final eight in Melbourne with a 7-5, 7-6 (4), 6-4 win over 19th-seeded Pablo Carreño Busta of Spain. The No. 7 seed from Italy now has reached the quarterfinals of all four majors. Last year, he was forced to withdraw from his fourth-round match against Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece due to an abdominal injury.

“It was really tough last year. I really wanted to play, but I couldn’t with the tear in the ab,” Berrettini said during his on-court interview. “But I believe there is a reason for everything that happens and I’ve been wishing to come back as soon as possible and the way I won today shows how much I care about this tournament.”

Berrettini struck 28 aces and hit 57 winners against the Carreño Busta during the two-hour and 22-minute fourth-round match. It was his first straight set win after going four sets to beat Brandon Nakashima and Stefan Kozlov in the first two rounds, then being pushed to five sets two days earlier before he beat Carlos Alcaraz.

Next, Berrettini will play a familiar foe, No. 17 seed Gaël Monfils of France, whom he shared a memorable five-set victory in the 2019 US Open quarterfinals. He’s 2-0 against the Frenchman.

“It was a really tough match and the emotions were all over the place for me and him,” Berrettini said. “I remember that match with a smile, but it will be a different match this time. For sure, it will be a fight.”

Berrettini will take a 2-0 head-to-head advantage into the match against Monfils, who defeated unseeded Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia, 7-5, 7-6 (4), 6-3 to reach the quarterfinal round at Melbourne Park for just the second time in 17 visits and first time since 2016.

The World No. 20 Monfils needed two hours and 35 minutes to beat the 77th-ranked Kecmanovic and reach his 10th Grand Slam quarterfinal. The Frenchman finished with 18 aces and 54 winners to 48 unforced errors, while Kecmanovic hit 30 winners and 30 unforced errors.

“It’s been a long journey for me and I’m quite happy, but it’s not finished,” Monfils said in his on-court interview. “I will try to play this quarterfinal not like the last time. I will try better. It’s an achievement but we’re not quite finished yet.”

Barty Party continues on to the final eight

World No. 1 and top seed Ashleigh Barty continued her quest to become the first Australian woman to win her home Grand Slam title since 1978. Through her first four matches this fortnight, she’s yet to drop a set.

On Sunday evening, Barty reached the quarterfinals for the fourth straight year with her 74-minute 6-4, 6-3 win over 20-year-old American Amanda Anisimova. Two days ago, Anisimova upset defending champion Naomi Osaka in the third round, after saving two match points, to set up the fourth-round match with Barty.

Barty, who beat Anisimova in the semifinals of the 2019 French Open en route to winning the first of her two major titles, hit 23 winners and won six of the last seven games of the fourth-round match on Rod Laver Arena to keep her hopes of becoming the first home women’s champion in 44 years alive. In Barty’s last three second-week outcomes, she lost in the 2019 quarterfinals to Petra Kvitova and in 2020 fell in the semifinals to eventual-champion Sofia Kenin. Last year, Barty was upset in the quarterfinals by Karolina Muchova.

Although Barty’s streak of consecutive games holding serve was finally broken by Anisimova in her first service game of the second set, after having reached 63 straight games dating back to the start of the season in Adelaide, she said it didn’t bother her too much. “Honestly, I’m not counting how many games I hold in a row or not. The fact I was able to rest, break straight back, was really important, just to be able to reset myself, go again and continue to do the right things.”

Next, Barty will face No. 21 seed Jessica Pegula of the United States, who advanced with a 7-6 (0), 6-3 win over No. 5 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece on Margaret Court Arena, to reach her second straight Australian Open quarterfinal.

During her post-match press conference, Barty was asked about her quarterfinal opponent. She said of Pegula: “She’s able to hold the baseline really well. Her swings are quite linear and she gets a racquet behind the ball and swings through the path. The ball comes at you at a different trajectory, and her ability to absorb pace and then add to it when she wants to is exceptional. It’s going to be a challenge for me to try and push her off that baseline and make her uncomfortable and feel like she has to create.

“But I know that she’s also going to be doing the exact same thing to me and trying to make me uncomfortable. That’s the chess game that we play. You go out there and have fun with, see who can execute better on the day, and that’s about all there is to it.”

The 27-year-old Pegula turned heads a year ago when, unseeded and ranked 61st, she made a surprise run to her first Grand Slam quarterfinal. Now, she’s reached the Top 20 and her one-hour and 35-minute win over Sakkari is indicative of her potential. It was her eighth win against Top 10 competition.Pegula struck 28 winners and broke Sakkari five times. The Greek committed 25 unforced errors.

“It was a little hot out there today, so I didn’t really want to kind of play a lot of long points,” Pegula said in press after her victory. “I thought I really had to step up and be aggressive when I had the chances to. Luckily, I was able to capitalize on that pretty well today and play a pretty clean match, I think.”

Krejcikova, Keys set up quarterfinal showdown

Earlier Sunday, French Open champion Barbora Krejcikova of the Czech Republic reached the singles quarterfinals in Melbourne for the first time with a 6-2, 6-2 win over two-time Australian Open champion Victoria Azarenka on sun-drenched Rod Laver Arena, where the temperatures reached 34 Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit).

The No. 4 seed Krejcikova took care of business in 84 minutes to move into her third quarterfinal in four majors. She hit 23 winners to just 12 unforced errors and broke the 24th-seeded Azarenka’s serve five times in 10 tries. The 32-year-old Belarusian also committed 28 unforced errors.

“I really respect Vika,” Krejcikova, 26, said. “I think Rod Laver Arena is like her living room. She really likes it there. She’s really experienced on that court. For me, it means a lot, it’s really special.”

Krejcikova’s next opponent will be No. 51 Madison Keys of the United States, arguably the hottest player during the first month of 2022. The 2017 US Open finalist and former World No. 7 scored a 6-3, 6-1 victory over No. 8 seed Paula Badosa of Spain for her ninth consecutive win and 10th victory in 11 matches this season.

“I’m really happy with how I played today,” said Keys, who is now into her third Australian Open quarterfinal. “I think I served a lot better than I did in the last match. I think I returned well. I think overall I just started off either neutral or kind of ahead in the point. I had a lot of opportunities to try to move forward.

“I think just my mindset really let me play good tennis. That’s really what I’ve been trying to focus on, just giving myself the opportunity to allow myself to play tennis like I did today.”

In their first career meeting, Keys hit 26 winners and benefited from 10 double faults by Badosa. The Spaniard also lost her serve game five times.

Looking ahead, during her post-match press conference, Keys had plenty of praise for Krejcikova.“I think she’s kind of just making tennis look easy. It seems like no matter what people are doing, she very quickly figures it out and has another game play to quickly implement,” she said.

“Then, I think the other thing about her is that she’s also an incredible doubles player. She moves forward so naturally that I feel like if you give her the opportunity, she’s just on top of you all of a sudden, then she’s at the net. Obviously, it’s not easy to pass her.”

Keys labeled playing Krejcikova in the final eight “an incredibly difficult matchup.”

And what does Krejcikova think of Keys? “Madison, she’s playing great,” the Czech star said in press. “I’ve seen her today. She was flawless. She was really playing well. I mean, I’m following a lot of tennis matches, so I know what is happening.

“I think she’s really powerful. I think she’s always been powerful. I think she does her things well. I think she likes to be aggressive. Today, she was really serving well and she was also hitting her forehand really well. This is what she was doing really, really good. We have to find a way how to eliminate these things, how to give her my game.”

Sunday’s Australian Open results

Monday’s Australian Open order of play

Around Melbourne Park

By the numbers

• Sunday’s Day Seven attendance at Melbourne Park reached 26,587.

Rafael Nadal‘s victory over Adrian Mannarino marked the 45thtime hehas reached the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam tournament, which is third all-tie behind Roger Federer’s 58 and Novak Djokovic with 51.

“Quotable …”

“He’s playing good, I’m feeling good, for sure it’s going to be a fight.”

– No. 7 seed Matteo Berrettini of Italy looking ahead to his quarterfinal match against Gaël Monfils,