SHAPOVALOV BESTS TSITSIPAS IN NEXTGEN SHOWDOWN, GETS TIAFOE NEXT
By Tucker Verdi
Miami Gardens, FL — No. 8 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and No. 20 seed Denis Shapovalov battled into the early morning hours of Wednesday to decide who would be playing in the quarterfinals of the 2019 Miami Open presented by Itaú.
The 19-year-old Shapovalov outlasted the 20-year-old Tsitsipas in a match that ended at 1:48AM ET, with the young Canadian claiming the third set tiebreak to win 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3). This was the third matchup between the two players — they had split the first two meetings.
“I knew Stefanos was going to be a tough match,” said Shapovalov. “I was ready for a long battle and, sure enough, it went the distance… I’m just happy with the way I controlled myself and the way I played today.”
The match pitted two players with a very similar style of play with a one-handed backhand and incredible slice — akin to their shared idol, Roger Federer. In the first set, Tsitsitpas’ court coverage gave Shapovalov fits, getting a racket on every ball and hitting hard and flat to push the left-hander back. Shapovalov also failed to put any pressure on the Greek’s serve, never getting to see a break point. The crucial game came at 4-all, when Tsitsipas jumped on Shapovalov’s second serve to break him and serve out the set.
The second was a complete reversal of the opener, with Shapovalov stepping into Tsitsipas’ serve and getting the 2018 ATP NextGen Finals winner running with his return game. The Canadian No. 1 — leader of a contingent of up-and-coming stars from the country including Bianca Andreescu and Felix Auger-Aliassime — had a dominant set serving as well, landing 80 percent of his first serves, and winning 71 percent of those points. He built up a commanding 5-1 lead in the second and, though he was broken while serving for the match the first time, settled his nerves to force a decider in his next service game.
In the third, impeccable and impenetrable serving saw each player hold throughout the set and never go break-point down. In the tiebreak, Shapovalov would take advantage of early miscues by the Greek phenom to go up 3-1, but Tsitsipas fought back to level at 3-all. From there, Shapovalov would be locked in — firing off an ace and a punishing forehand winner down the line en route to a 7-3 win in the tiebreak to advance to his first Miami Open quarterfinal and third at the Masters 1000 level.
Addressing the lingering crowd that stayed well in Wednesday morning, Shapovalov said, “Thank you guys so much for staying out here this late and watching us play.”
The win sets up a clash with No. 28 seed Frances Tiafoe, age 21, for a berth in the semifinals, guaranteeing that one of the ATP’s coveted NextGen players will be in the final four in Miami.
Tiafoe faced a stiff competitor in No. 18 seed David Goffin, prevailing over the Belgian in two tight sets, 7-5, 7-6(6). The ever-animated Tiafoe pushed Goffin back with his terrific play from the baseline, surviving the former World No. 7’s barrage of 11 aces to break him four times in the match, the decisive break coming late in the first.
In the second, a trade of breaks led to a fiercely-competitive set that was suspended at 4-all due to rain. After more than two hours off the court, the two returned and continued the high-level of play, taking the set to 6-all and a tiebreak. Tiafoe jumped out to a 5-2 lead only to have Goffin reel off three high-pressure points and level at 5-all. After squandering his first match point, Tiafoe maintained his level to get another chance to seal the deal, doing so 8-6 in the tiebreak for the straight-sets win — just over four hours after the match began.
In the other quarter, No. 6 seed Kevin Anderson squeaked by Jordan Thompson in two close sets, 7-5, 7-5. The big man Anderson’s pressure on Thompson’s serve proved to be too much for the Australian to handle, as he faced seven break points and surrendered three. The South African, on the other hand, was broken only once — the only time he was break-point down the entire match.
Anderson will play the winner of the match between No. 4 seed Roger Federer and No. 13 seed Daniil Medvedev, which was postponed to Wednesday because of rain.