After one day of action in Osijek, Croatia, things are all square between the host Croatians and the visiting Canadians as the two nations’ NextGen stars came up big in their opening matches. Borna Coric got the hosts on the board first, before Denis Shapovalov leveled the score in the second rubber on an exciting day one of the Davis Cup first round battle.
Coric overcomes slow start
Despite playing on his weakest surface in a hostile environment, it was Canada’s Vasek Pospisil, who was swapped in for Peter Polansky, getting off to the quicker start. The former Wimbledon doubles champion hung with the clay-loving Coric in the opening set and hanging on to his own serve before breaking late to take a 5-3 lead. That would be enough as he served out the opening set in the following game.
Coric wasted no time in turning the tables in the second, breaking at the first opportunity and rushing to a 3-0 lead. He held a break point for 4-0 in the following game, but Pospisil saved it. Still, Coric rolled through the second, breaking again to wrap up the set. An early break in the third would be enough for the Croatian, as he once again broke early for a 3-0 lead and hung on to take a two-sets-to-one lead.
Pospisil appeared to be running out of gas in the fourth and was again broken early. Despite some flashes of a fightback, he could not muster the strength or consistency to break Coric back. The Croatian would break a second time before serving out the match to take a 1-0 lead for the hosts with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, 6-2 victory.
Coric won 83 percent of his first serve points and converted five of his eight break point opportunities while limiting his opponent two only two, one of which was converted. Both men hit more unforced errors than winners, but Pospisil’s atrocious 51 unforced errors would prove costly. He only had 17 winners to Coric’s 18 (who had 33 unforced errors of his own).
El Shapo strikes back
His country now trailing, Denis Shapovalov got off a dream start in the second rubber, breaking in the opening game courtesy of a slew of unforced errors from the world number 181 Viktor Galovic. The Canadian nearly gave it right back when he fell behind 0-40 in the fourth game, but he battled back to hold, eventually taking the first set 6-4.
The second set followed a similar script to the opener, only without the break. Galovic found himself under pressure again in the opening game of the second set, being forced to save four break points before holding. The fourth game was again troublesome for Shapovalov, who needed to save a pair of break points of his own before holding. With the set tied at 4-4, the Canadian teen made his move. Galovic fell behind double break point and could not escape this time, dropping the second break point to surrender the lone break of the set. Shapovalov would serve out the set to 15.
After an even start to the third set, the teenager got on a roll and rode it to the finish line. After four routine service games to start the set, Shapovalov took a 15-40 lead on Galovic’s serve, converting the second break point to take the lead. He did it again in the seventh game to take a 5-2 lead. Serving out the match proved troublesome, as the Canadian fell behind 0-40 for the second time in the match, but once again dug himself out of the hole and converted his first match point to level the tie at 1-1 with a straight sets win.
Like the opening tie, both men had more unforced errors than winners. In fact, both men had more than twice as many errors as winners. Shapovalov overcame 48 unforced errors, largely thanks to Galovic’s 49. The Canadian also won the winners battle 22 to 10. As it often has, the teen’s serve came up big in the match. Shapovalov struck 10 aces, won 83 percent of his first serve points, and saved all eight break points that he faced.
The doubles will take place tomorrow with Canadian legend Daniel Nestor contesting what could be his final Davis Cup rubber, partnering Pospisil. A win over Ivan Dodig and Franko Skugor would go along way to giving Nestor one more go in the Davis Cup. The doubles could be particularly important for the Canadians, as Marin Cilic could return and be a difference maker in the reverse singles, although a return for the doubles is not out of the question.