ATP Auckland: Denis Shapovalov makes a slow return. Fils dethrones Gasquet

Former champion Roberto Bautista Agut experienced an early loss

by Jovica Ilic
ATP Auckland: Denis Shapovalov makes a slow return. Fils dethrones Gasquet
© Phil Walter / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Former world no. 10 Denis Shapovalov played his first match since last year's Wimbledon. The Canadian still seeks his A-game following knee issues, experiencing a 6-4, 6-2 loss to Sebastian Ofner in 68 minutes. The Austrian played well in Hong Kong and shifted that form to Auckland, controlling the pace and sealing the deal quickly.

Denis served at 49%, hitting no aces and spraying 11 double faults! Considering those numbers, the Canadian played against only three break points, failing to convert any. Ofner dominated behind the first serve and defended both break points to keep the pressure on the other side.

They embraced only 17 exchanges with five strokes or more, and nothing separated them. Sebastian forged a 52-34 advantage in the shortest range up to four strokes thanks to his initial shot and those 11 double faults from his rival.

Denis made a shaky start in his first match in half a year, getting broken at 15 in the first game after a double fault. Sebastian fired a service winner in game two, cementing the lead and forging a 2-0 advantage. A left-hander served better in the third game, taking an extended rally and reducing the deficit to 2-1.

Shapovalov clinched the fifth game with a service winner, staying within one break deficit. Ofner grabbed the sixth game with a booming serve, moving 4-2 in front and keeping the strings in his hands. They held at love in games seven and eight, with Shapovalov serving to stay in the set at 3-5.

The Canadian came from 30-0 down and closed the game with a service winner, prolonging his chances. Sebastian served for the set at 5-4 and cracked a forehand down the line winner, wrapping up the opener in 33 minutes. Ofner finally played a loose service game at 0-1 in the second set, spraying a backhand error and offering Shapovalov his only two break chances.

The Austrian saved the first with a booming serve, and the Canadian squandered the second after a couple of loose forehands.

Richard Gasquet, Auckland 2024© Phil Walter / Staff - Getty Images Sport

They sealed Denis' fate in this one, as he faced two break points in game three after a double fault.

A left-hander sprayed another double fault on the first, falling a set and a break down and showing frustration. Ofner cemented the lead with a service winner in game four and pushed strong on the return again at 3-1. Denis hit a double fault and faced a break point.

He missed a forehand right after the serve, experiencing the second break and pushing his opponent closer to the finish line. Sebastian served for the victory at 5-2 and landed a smash winner at the net to emerge at the top in style and move into the second round.

The defending champion Richard Gasquet fell on the first hurdle, falling to his young compatriot Arthur Fils 6-3, 6-4 in 69 minutes. Gasquet will drop 250 ATP points next week and leave the top-100 for the first time since April 2005, ending the longest active streak at 956 weeks!

Arthur fired nine aces and did a better job behind the second serve.

Denis Shapovalov, Richard Gasquet and Roberto Bautista Agut lost in Auckland.

The young gun defended the only break point he faced, keeping the pressure on the other side.

Gasquet's first serve worked like a charm. However, the second serve let him down, playing against six break points and losing serve once in each set. Arthur made the difference in the shortest range up to four strokes, with nothing standing between them in the more advanced ones.

The servers made a reliable start, barely losing a point in the opening four games. Fils held after deuce in game five, landing an ace for 3-2. The younger Frenchman stepped in on the return in the sixth game, landing a forehand winner for three break chances.

He seized the third to move in front and forge a 4-2 advantage. Fils struggled to terminate the seventh game, squandering game points and offering Gasquet a break chance. The young gun denied it with a powerful serve and closed the game with an ace for 5-2.

Arthur Fils, Auckland 2024© Phil Walter / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Arthur served for the opener at 5-3 and fired a booming serve at 40-30 to secure the opener in 36 minutes. Fils produced five comfortable holds in the second set, and Gasquet could not follow that pace.

The veteran held at love in the first game before facing issues at 1-1. Richard sprayed a backhand error and offered Arthur three break chances. The young gun seized the third when the more experienced player rushed a forehand error, moving 2-1 in front and closer to the finish line.

Fils cemented the lead with a service winner in game four and forced the rival's mistake two games later for 4-2. Both players served well after that crucial break, and the defending champion held in game nine to prolong the battle.

Arthur served for the victory at 5-4 and produced a hold at love for a solid win and a place in the second round. Roberto Carballes Baena defeated former champion Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-3 in an hour and 44 minutes. The younger Spaniard played better behind the first and second serve, getting broken two times and seizing five out of 15 break chances.

Atp Auckland Denis Shapovalov Roberto Bautista Agut