Less than 24 hours after defeating good friend Félix Auger-Aliassime in a battle of the Canadian teens, Denis Shapovalov proved age was just a number in a clinical 6-3, 6-2 victory over Belgian Ruben Bemelmans to claim his biggest-ever title at the Drummondville National Bank Challenger.
Superb Shapovalov Sizzles in Clinical First-Set Display
With big lefty serves being traded back and forth in the early proceedings, it came as no surprise that any early looks at a break—for either man—were few and far between. But as the more proactive one, especially on the return, it was Shapovalov who would strike first; an untimely double fault from Bemelmans enough to secure a 4-2 lead for the young Canadian.
From there, the 17-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ontario would immediately consolidate the break at love with some huge serving, en route to taking the first set 6-3 as Bemelmans struggled to find any answers to the Canadian’s explosive game.
Shapovalov Serves His Way to First ATP Challenger Crown
Struggling to find the mark with his own booming forehand, Bemelmans soon found himself in big trouble after a series of errors and a devastatingly good passing shot from Shapovalov led the Canadian teenager to an early break, one he would immediately consolidate to go a set and 2-0 to the good.
As Bemelmans tried to close the gap by stepping further into the court, Shapovalov soon found himself in a spot of bother in his next service game, facing two break points that threatened to erase his early advantage in the second. But playing with a maturity beyond his years, the 17-year-old responded in imperious fashion, saving both chances with none other than his trusty serve before going on to maintain his lead.
After further consolidating his advantage, Shapovalov would break Bemelmans once more to build a commanding set and 4-1 lead, and never really looked back. Closing the match out with his signature one-two punch, the teenager secured the biggest title of his blossoming young career and fifth overall at the professional level, much to the delight of a sold-out home crowd who shared in his indescribable joy.
“It was tough, this being my first Challenger final,” the newly-crowned champion said after the match. “I started off a little bit nervous, I was having trouble holding on my serve, but I knew if I could stay in the rallies, then I would get my chances. I think I did very well competing and making sure I had a chance to win today.”
With this victory, Shapovalov will break into the top 200 for the first time to climb to a new career-high ranking of number 194 in the world at just 17 years of age, which also makes him the new Canadian number five in the Emirates ATP Rankings. In addition, the 17-year-old will jump 37 spots in the ATP NextGen’s Road to Milan standings behind the likes of Alexander Zverev and Borna Coric.
But that’s not all: Shapovalov also becomes the youngest and just the third Canadian to ever lift an ATP Challenger Tour level crown after Frank Dancevic (Kosice, 2014) and Peter Polansky (Gatineau, 2016).
There will be no time to rest for the Canadian teenager, who leaves on Monday for a series of Challenger events in Mexico, starting with the one in Guadalajara next week where he could meet compatriot Vasek Pospisil in the second round.