05:54 AM GMT March 27, 2019
The future of men’s tennis was on full display as Tuesday night turned into Wednesday morning at the Miami Open presented by Itau. No. 20 seed Denis Shapovalov and No. 8 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas traded blistering baseline winners for more than two hours, but it was Shapovalov who prevailed in their epic fourth-round tussle 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3).
“I knew Stefanos was going to be a tough match. I was ready for a long battle and, sure enough, it went the distance,” said Shapovalov. “I’m just happy with the way I controlled myself and the way I played today.”
The Canadian took the lead in their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 2-1 and has won both of their hard-court matches. Shapovalov also picked up the second Top 10 win of his career, having previously defeated Rafael Nadal at the 2017 Coupe Rogers.
The win marks the first time there will be three #NextGenATP players in the quarter-finals of a Masters 1000 tournament (since 2017). Shapovalov joins fellow Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime and No. 28 seed Frances Tiafoe in the last eight.
Shapovalov now has another #NextGenATP battle to prepare for when he meets Tiafoe on Thursday. They're even in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series at 1-1, with both matches taking place last year on American hard courts. Tiafoe prevailed at the Delray Beach Open by VITACOST.com and Shapovalov turned the tables at the Western & Southern Open.
“It’s always great to play Frances. We’re really good buddies and I think very highly of him. He’s going to be a great champion and he’s got a really bright future ahead of him,” said Shapovalov. “It’s going to be an exciting match. We’re both shotmakers, so I’m just ready for another fun [and] tough match.”
Shapovalov and Tsitsipas had clear tactics from the start, with the Greek looking to extend their baseline rallies and the Canadian attempting to shorten the points. Tsitsipas was able to hold serve easily throughout the first set and apply pressure in most of his return games. A backhand passing shot winner gave him break point at 3-3 and an error from Shapovalov secured the break. The slight lead was all Tsitsipas needed to take the early advantage.
The Greek’s tactic to extend the rallies proved highly effective in the first set. He won 75 per cent (18/24) of rallies over five shots and kept his error count low (9) as he allowed Shapovalov to eventually misfire. The Canadian hit 18 unforced errors in the opening set.
But in the second set, Shapovalov began to gamble on his return in a bid to stop Tsitsipas’ momentum on serve. The strategy worked and a forehand passing shot winner gave him an early break to start the second set. Shapovalov’s only hiccup came as he attempted to serve out the set at 5-1, but he made good on his second opportunity and brought the match to a decider.
Both players traded comfortable service holds through the final set to force a tie-break. Shapovalov took a 3/0 lead before Tsitsipas fought back to 3/3. But at 4/3, Shapovalov rifled a forehand winner and riled the crowd up for one last push. Two points later, another forehand winner from the Canadian wrapped up the contest after two hours and 14 minutes.