Shapovalov, Medvedev Reach Vienna Final For First Time

Denis Shapovalov (photo: e-motion/Bildagentur Zolles KG/Christian Hofer)

VIENNA/WASHINGTON, October 29, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

The common denominator among the four semifinalists competing at the ATP 500 Erste Bank Open Saturday afternoon was all four were appearing in their first Vienna semifinal. Of the quartet, only one of them, World No. 4 Daniil Medvedev, was seeded. While there had been plenty of unpredictable outcomes throughout the week, this time both semifinals featured predictable winners: Medvedev and 19th-ranked Denis Shapovalov.

On Sunday afternoon, Medvedev and Shapovalov will meet for the first time in an ATP Tour title match. Medvedev has won three of their five career head-to-head battles.

In the opening semifinal inside Wiener Stadthalle, which matched a pair of former Nitto ATP Finals champions, the top-seeded Medvedev entered with a 3-2 head-to-head advantage against No. 32 Grigor Dimitrov, who was seeking his second Top 10 win this week after knocking off No. 8 Andrey Rublev in the second-round while also trying to reach his 16th ATP Tour final and first since 2018 at Rotterdam.

Meanwhile, former No. 1 Medvedev was appearing in his eighth semifinal of 2022 and looking to advance to his fifth final. He had not been broken in 26 service games and faced just one break point. As it happened, Medvedev, playing the role of aggressor, would win all nine of his service games against Dimitrov, hitting the ball cleanly throughout. He faced zero break points. It all added up to a comprehensive, 84-minute 6-4, 6-2 win for the 26-year-old Moscow native.

“It was a great match,” Medvedev said after earning his 44th win of the season in his 59th match, which also qualified him for the fifth spot in the Nitto ATP Finals next month in Turin. “There were a few moments in the match where I thought I should have done just a little bit better to go in front earlier and try to build the pressure earlier. Then, I managed to stay consistent and in the most important points, managed to raise my level. That was enough today, and I’m really happy with my level.”

In the opening set, Medvedev gained the first break of the match in its longest rally – 19 shots that ended when Dimitrov netted a backhand from a sharp angle near the net – to go ahead 3-2. He consolidated it with an easy hold to extend his lead, then gained a break point in Dimitrov’s next service game thanks to a double fault. However, the Bulgarian gained a crucial hold by winning three straight points. Then, a game later, Dimitrov saved a set point with a solid forehand winner and held with an ace up the middle. In due time, Medvedev closed out the 45-minute set with a love hold that was punctuated with his fourth ace.

Next, at 2-all in the second set, Medvedev converted his second break point of the fifth game to push ahead 3-2. He consolidated the break at 15 to take a 4-2 lead with time running out for Dimitrov. Soon, Medvedev took a double-break lead after Dimitrov killed a 15-shot rally when he sailed a forehand past the baseline. Finally, Medvedev closed out the set and victory on his serve in the next game. On this afternoon, he was just too good for Dimitrov.

Medvedev, who won 87 percent of his first-serve points, outpointed Dimitrov 66-44 by hitting 15 winners to 11 unforced errors and converting three of seven break points. Dimitrov countered with 21 winners but also committed 27 unforced errors. Now, Medvedev will try to win his second ATP Tour title of the season tomorrow in the Austrian capital city when he faces Shapovalov.

Lefty Shapovalov shows all the right stuff

In the second semifinal, the World No. 19 Shapovalov from Canada looked to level his win-loss record against 27th-ranked Borna Coric of Croatia, who held a 2-1 head-to-head advantage – and he did just that, winning 7-6 (4), 6-0 for his 27th hard court victory of the season.

The Canadian No. 2 won their last meeting, in the quarterfinals at Tokyo earlier this month. He’s gone largely under the radar this week, having lost just one set in three matches. Meanwhile, Coric won his previous two matches with a pair of third-set tie-break flourishes, first defeating No. 2 Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece and then No. 5 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland. The last time a Croatian reached the Vienna final was in 2009 when Marin Cilic lost to Jürgen Melzer. The last Croatian champion was Ivan Ljubicic in 2006. After Saturday’s setback for Coric, it will be at least another year for a Croatian to succeed in Vienna as Shapovalov marched to his second ATP Tour final of the season.

The margin for error between Shapovalov and Coric was so thin in the opening set that there was just a difference of two points (39-37 in favor of Shapovalov) – and neither player faced any break points. So, the 55-minute first set was decided by a tie-break, which Shapovalov won 7-4 over Coric after striking his seventh ace and 17th winner overall. He dropped just one point on his first serve.

Then, Shapovalov jumped out to a 3-0 advantage at the beginning of the second set with his first break of Coric in the second game. He went on to break twice more and wrapped up the bagel set – and the 88-minute victory – after Coric double-faulted on match point.

Looking back, Shapovalov finished with 25 winners to 15 unforced errors, won 95 percent of his first-serve points and saved the only break point he faced, which came in the third game of the second set. As for Coric, who hit more unforced errors than winners – 14 to 11 – it appeared as if he had run out of energy after the first set. Not so for Shapovalov, who had plenty of energy in reserve at the end, and outpointed his opponent 65-49.

“I’m just happy to get through and be in another final this season, beating some top guys and great players along the way,” Shapovalov said in his post-match interview. Shapovalov has beaten Austrian wild card Jurij Rodionov, No.  4 seed Taylor Fritz of the United States and Great Britain’s Daniel Evans en route to the final.

“I’m very happy with my performances this week and today was another amazing match,” Shapovalov added. “Obviously, Borna’s playing some great tennis, he beat some great players this week, so really happy to win today and really happy with my game.”

Around the Erste Open

The second doubles semifinal took place on Saturday between a pair of unseeded teams: Argentine duo Francisco Cerundolo and Maximo Gonzalez against Santiago Gonzalez of Mexico and Andres Molteni of Argentina. Each team had won one match in straight sets and one which went to a match tie-break. Gonzalez and Molteni were semifinalists last week in Stockholm and last month reached the final in Tel Aviv. The Mexican/Argentine pair were successful in winning 6-3, 6-4 over Cerundolo and Gonzalez, outpointing them 62-44.

Next, Gonzalez and Molteni advance to Sunday’s final against unseeded Austrian wild cards Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler, who have not lost a set this week in reaching their second ATP Tour title match.

Saturday’s Erste Open results

Sunday’s Erste Open order of play

By the numbers

Entering Saturday’s play, Borna Coric, was 14-3 since the start of the Western & Southern Open (ATP Masters 1000 Cincinnati) on 15 August. He was appearing in only his second semifinal of 2022. His previous semifinal came in Cincinnati, where he won his first Masters 1000 title. This week in Vienna, Coric has held serve 44 of 48 games (92%), saving a tournament-high 18 (of 22) break points.

“Quotable …”

“The serve is probably the most important shot in tennis. I was lacking it a little bit this season, I was doing too many double faults. Sometimes in important moments, my serve could have been a little bit better. I was working a lot with my coach to try and find this rhythm [again], and so far I’m serving good here. I’m really happy about it and that’s also why I’m playing so good.”

– Top seed Daniil Medvedev, quoted by the ATP Tour website, following his semifinal victory over Grigor Dimitrov.