06:30 PM GMT September 19, 2020
Denis Shapovalov earned his 100th tour-level win on Saturday in Rome, defeating Grigor Dimitrov 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 to reach the semi-finals of the Internazionali BNL d’Italia.
The Canadian is 5-0 in Masters 1000 quarter-finals after eliminating the 2014 Rome semi-finalist in one hour and 51 minutes. Shapovalov is 9-2 since the ATP Tour resumed in August.
"Grigor’s a player I’ve looked up to from juniors. I really love the way he plays," Shapovalov said on court after his win. "He’s beaten me twice before, so it’s really nice to get the win and it’s a huge step for my career."
The 21-year-old is on the verge of cracking the Top 10 of the FedEx ATP Rankings for the first time. He will achieve the feat if Argentine Diego Schwartzman does not lift the trophy at the Foro Italico. Shapovalov will play Schwartzman in the last four.
The 12th seed will be confident after his resilient performance against 15th-seeded Dimitrov. The Bulgarian had won their two previous ATP Head2Head meetings — including one in Rotterdam earlier this year — without losing a set. Dimitrov earned the momentum towards the end of the second set, but Shapovalov battled hard to wrestle it back and advance.
Both players displayed the athleticism and shotmaking skills that make them fan favourites. But Shapovalov proved to be a bit more dynamic than the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals champion, breaking Dimitrov's serve five times.
Shapovalov slipped up in the second set, double faulting to go down 1-3 before earning a 'boomerang break' with a wicked backhand slice approach shot. But the Canadian gave the break back again with a forehand approach into the net.
The 2019 Stockholm Open champion showed a lot of positive energy in the third set, consistently yelling, "come on!" after big points. Dimitrov double faulted into the net to give Shapovalov a 2-0 lead in the decider and the Canadian never looked back.
Shapovalov showed no nerves in the back-end of the third set, continuing to play aggressively until the last point. Dimitrov, who won a Masters 1000 title at 2017 Cincinnati, hit a backhand slice into the top of the net to end the match. The lefty believes he has benefitted from reaching the doubles quarter-finals at both Rome and the US Open alongside Rohan Bopanna.
"It’s definitely helping a lot. It’s just improved my net game by so much and honestly I probably have one of the best partners on Tour," Shapovalov said. "Not only is he an amazing player, but he’s such a good mentor and a really good friend of mine. Rohan’s helped me so much [to] improve in both singles and doubles."