Canadian 11th seed Denis Shapovalov outlasted Italian Jannik Sinner 3-6 6-3 6-2 4-6 6-4 in an enthralling battle of ‘Next Gen’ stars on Monday to move into the second round of the Australian Open. In the final clash on Margaret Court Arena on the opening day of the Grand Slam, the 21-year-old Shapovalov and Sinner, 19, put on a brilliant display of clean hitting and athleticism in their first career meeting.
“Jannik’s such a great opponent. He’s so talented, such a great guy so I’m really happy that he’s been doing well,” Shapovalov said in his on-court interview. “I’m very happy to get the win. Of course I knew it’s going to be a tough match.”
In an evenly-contested match with hardly anything to choose between the two youngsters, Sinner, who on Sunday became the youngest player to win two ATP titles since Novak Djokovic in 2006, made a fast start for a 3-0 lead before taking the set.
Against Sinner’s immaculate hitting and robust court coverage, Shapovalov needed to raise his game and the world number 12 managed to find an extra gear and some more power behind his shots to take the next two sets.
Having played both singles and doubles almost everyday in the tuneup event the past week, Sinner’s legs seemed to have run out of juice when he fell back 3-1 in the fourth set but the 32nd-ranked Italian fought back to level the contest at 2-2.
Before the deciding set, Shapovalov had a lengthy argument with the chair umpire after being denied a toilet break and after receiving some medical attention for a shoulder niggle, the Canadian broke Sinner in the opening game.
Sinner, who spent his 14-day isolation in Adelaide ahead of the Grand Slam as Rafa Nadal’s hitting partner, spent whatever he had in his tank but could not get the break back.
After almost four hours, Shapovalov sealed the contest at almost 1 am in the morning with a forehand winner down the line on his second match point to set up a second-round meeting against Australian Bernard Tomic.
“Matches like this is so much fun for me to play, this is why I play the sport,” Shapovalov said. “Win or lose today, it’s one of the matches that I’m gonna remember in my career just because … the moment, the quality of tennis today, it was just so much fun to be out here.”