Contesting his first ever match in tennis’ biggest stadium, only his third match ever in a major, and up against former major finalist and top-twenty mainstay for nearly a decade, 18-year-old Canadian Denis Shapovalov was brilliant in his second round match at the US Open, knocking off eighth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets.
Coming off his first ever match win at a major, Shapovalov showed no signs of being overawed by the occasion, taking an early lead over the Frenchman and never looking back, knocking off one of the tour’s most consistent players over the past decade with a 6-4, 6-4, 7-6(3) victory.
Quick start for el Shapo
Tsonga seemed taken aback by the young Canadian’s speed and aggression in the opening game and struggled under the pressure, committing four straight errors to surrender the immediate love break. Showing no signs of nerves playing for the first time in the world’s largest tennis stadium, Shapovalov easily consolidated with a hold for 2-0.
While Tsonga would rally and began to take control of his own service games, he had no answer for Shapovalov’s speed and power. The teen was putting everything in play and crushing every ball within his reach, charging into the net regularly to keep the pressure on his opponent. He continued to hold his serve and quickly found himself serving for the set at 5-4. Tsonga would have his best return game of the set as the Canadian looked to serve it out, twice leading by a point and forcing a deuce for the first time, but he still could not match his young opponent, sending a backhand into the net on the second set point.
Tsonga can’t find an answer
Ever since the early break in the opening set, Tsonga had been working his way into the match. He finally seemed to find his rhythm early in the second set and managed to power his way to break point for the first time in the match in the fourth game. But as he had been all night, Shapovalov stayed aggressive and ripped a forehand winner up the line to save it, holding for 2-2.
Not long after, the Canadian turned the momentum back in his favour as Tsonga started to slip. Serving at 3-3, 30-30, the Frenchman ripped a backhand long to fall behind break point and then double faulted to surrender the break. Once again with the lead, Shapovalov showed maturity beyond his years. After struggling to serve out the opening set, the 18-year-old was unflappable serving for the second, holding to love to take a massive two-sets-to-love lead over the veteran Frenchman.
Shapovalov hangs on
The Canadian nearly took a stranglehold of the match in the opening game of the third as he took a 0-30 lead in the opening game, but Tsonga managed to battle back and hold after a pair of deuces. Once again, the first break came in the seventh game, as a nightmare game from Tsonga saw the Frenchman double fault then send a smash long to set up break point before sending a routine forehand from the midcourt wide to surrender the break.
With Tsonga serving at 5-3, Shapovalov was two points away from victory at 15-30 but could not close out the match. Serving for the win, the teen finally blinked, as a pair of routine forehand unforced errors gave Tsonga triple break point. The Canadian saved the first two break points, but his lob went long on the third as he dropped serve for the first time in the match. He nearly reclaimed the break in the next game when he took a 15-40 lead, but the Frenchman saved both break points.
Shapovalov would hold to love to send the set to a tiebreak and rode that momentum into the breaker. Tsonga double faulted on the first point to surrender the minibreak and never recovered. The pair would exchange minibreaks midway through the breaker before Shapovalov’s passing shot into the feet of Tsonga set up triple match point at 6-3. On the first, the Frenchman appeared to send his return long. Tsonga challenged and forced Shapovalov to wait before hawkeye showed the return was in fact long, handing the Canadian a stunning victory.
By the numbers
Shapovalov was better in practically every category. His serve was great, as he won 77 percent of his first serve points and 56 percent of his second serves. Tsonga only won 73 percent of his first serve points and struggled when he failed to put that first serve in play, something he only managed 51 percent of the time, only winning 53 percent of his second serve points. Shapovalov’s aggression paid off, as he struck 28 winners to Tsonga’s 22 and won 23 of 32 (72 percent) of his points at the net. Tsonga committed 28 unforced errors (to the Canadian’s 19), including five double faults.
Tsonga is the second-highest ranked opponent that Shapovalov has beaten in his young career, the highest being world number two Rafael Nadal in Montreal.
Shapovalov will play Kyle Edmund in the third round. The pair have split their previous two meetings, both this year, with Edmund winning their long hard court and best of five meeting, although Shapovalov won the more recent meeting and their lone complete match (Shapovalov was infamously defaulted in their Davis Cup meeting back in February).