ATP Marseille: Julien Benneteau serves past Denis Shapovalov
Julien Benneteau waves to the crowd after his win. Photo: ATP World Tour

ATP Marseille: Julien Benneteau serves past Denis Shapovalov

Wild card Julien Benneteau lost only four points on serve in his first-round win over fellow wild card Denis Shapovalov, who is still seeking his first tour-level win since August 2016.

pete-borkowski
Pete Borkowski

A battle of wild cards at the Open 13 Marseille saw home-favourite Julien Benneteau serve his way past 17-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov, who was contesting his ATP World Tour match of 2017 and his first match since being disqualified at the Davis Cup earlier this month. The Frenchman was untouchable on serve, dropping a mere four points in the match on his way to a 7-5, 6-4 victory.

Benneteau strikes late

The Frenchman didn’t waste too much time in applying pressure to the Shapovalov serve, forcing the 17-year-old to fight through a pair of deuces in his second service game, although he managed to prevent Benneteau from reaching break point. The young Canadian would settle in after that tricky start, defending his serve with relative ease for most of the set. However, he was unable to make any strides on return, only winning three return points in the entire set.

Shapovalov adjusts his wrist bands during his loss. Photo: Open 13 Marseille
Shapovalov adjusts his wrist bands during his loss. Photo: Open 13 Marseille

With the pair locked at 5-5, Benneteau would make his move. The Frenchman raced ahead 0-40, the first break points of the match, and converted his second to grab the first break of the match. He would wrap up the opening set with a hold to love. Benneteau won 12 of the last 13 points in the opening set.

Strong serving carries Benneteau

The momentum firmly in his favour, Benneteau had a chance to take full control of the match at the start of the second set, forcing Shapovalov to deuce and holding a break point, but he could not convert and the young Canadian would hold. The problem for Shapovalov was that he still could not solve the Frenchman’s serve. His inability to secure so much as a break point would prove to be his undoing, as Benneteau would not be denied a second time when he brought up another break point at 2-2, securing the break to take the lead.

Shapovalov (in green) and Benneteau shake hands after the match. Photo: Open 13 Marseille
Shapovalov (in green) and Benneteau shake hands after the match. Photo: Open 13 Marseille

The Frenchman had a chance two games later to take a stranglehold on the match, but could not convert his break point. Still, Benneteau’s serve proved to be too much for the Canadian teen, as, after winning a point in his first return game of the set, Shapovalov would not win a single point on Benneteau’s serve after the second game. Four straight holds to love would send the Frenchman into the second round on home soil.

By the numbers

Shapovalov actually out-aced Benneteau 16 to 5, but was dominated in every other statistical category. The Frenchman won 92 percent of his service points, 91 percent of his first serves and 94 percent of his second serves, only dropping four points on serve in the entire match. He did not face a break point. Shapovalov played nearly as main first serve points on his own serve as Benneteau played service points in total.

Benneteau will play countryman Gilles Simon in the second round.

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