One of the most intriguing opening round clashes in the Men’s singles draw at the US Open sees two young Canadian talents face off for the first time on tour, with 28th seed Denis Shapovalov facing qualifier Felix Auger-Aliassime for a spot in the second round.
The two are widely seen as the future of Men’s tennis in Canada, and are good friends; they played doubles together at the Rogers Cup just a few weeks ago, and were junior doubles champions at this tournament three years ago.
Auger-Aliassime is in fact making his first Grand Slam singles appearance, having never qualified before, whilst Shapovalov will be returning to the tournament where he made a major breakthrough by reaching the fourth round last year. The winner will face Sam Querrey or Andreas Seppi in the second round
US Open build up
Auger-Aliassime, the younger of the two (he turned 18 earlier this month), began his summer with a wildcard at his home tournament, the Rogers Cup, where he knocked out Lucas Pouille in the opening round before falling to Daniil Medvedev in a third set breaker. He then suffered an early loss at a Challenger event in Vancouver, though rebounded well in the qualification tournament at Flushing Meadows; he did not drop a set in three matches to seal his place in his maiden Grand Slam singles draw.
Shapovalov began his preparation at the Citi Open, where he triumphed over Medvedev before falling to Kei Nishikori, and then went on to the Rogers Cup. The Canadian reached the last four in 2017, though could not quite match that as he fell in the fourth round to Robin Haase after two victories earlier. Shapovalov also reached the same stage at the Western and Southern Open, beating Frances Tiafoe and Kyle Edmund before falling to another countryman in Milos Raonic.
Both Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime are generally aggressive players and both will look to dictate as many rallies as possible, though it will be interesting to see how their games match up, especially considering they know how each other play very well. Shapovalov, who is left handed, will look to unload on his forehand as much as possible to try and boss Auger-Aliassime around the court. However, Shapovalov can be weaker on his one-handed backhand, and it seems likely that Auger-Aliassime, who is a right-hander, will try to attack this to force mistakes or make winners off this wing.
With the two both aggressive, it will be interesting to see how court position factors into this match, especially considering both move very well. However, what could be an advantage for Shapovalov is his experience playing at this level. The older of the two, he has picked up some big wins in his career already and knows about playing at Grand Slams, whilst Auger-Aliassime has never been here before; the younger Canadian did also have to player in qualifying last week, though won all his matches with some ease, meaning he will not be too worn out and will be confident heading in.
Considering the talent and results these two already have, this could be an incredibly exciting match to watch, and it will be interesting to see how these two adapt to playing each other. Experience suggests that Shapovalov should be able to win this, though it will be interesting to see how Auger-Aliassime equips himself in his first appearance here.
Prediction: Denis Shapovalov in four sets