"I think it was another exceptional match for me...I was able to play some big tennis...the momentum was kind of with me so I just tried to stay on it...I was a little bit sharper in the big moments today..."
is what Denis Shapovalov had critiqued his game back at the start of the season with the Australian Open playing Japan's Taro Daniel. The Canadian had won in three sets giving him encouragement that the rest of the season possibly would go well.
But he'd only gotten to the round of 16 and some quarterfinals throughout many tournaments. There were some important wins over Tomas Berdych in Rotterdam, Marin Cilic at Indian Wells and a fellow NextGen Stefanos Tsitsipas in Miami.
It was his biggest misfortune though when he exited at opening rounds of Monte Carlo, Barcelona and Madrid. Surely it was time to get his game snapping and he did it at the opening of the Italian Open in Rome. Shapovalov stuck by his philosophy in Rome as he did in Australia as being sharper in the big moments and staying focused.
He'd won 7 of 12 matches on clay and felt confident that he'd have a chance with Pablo Carreno Busta, despite being defeated by him at the 2017 US Open in three tie-breaks. Shapovalov did it with his signature powerful backhands practically all over the court, some sneaky drop shots and opening up the court for winners.
Carreno Busta wouldn't be a pushover and he would give many down-the-line winners too. It was those unforced errors that had gotten to Carreno Busta along with Shapovalov's dynamic angled serves. It was also those serve and volleys that got the better of the Spaniard as the Canadian had the first set at 6-3.
Carreno Busta did have the break in the second set at 2-1. They had see-sawed a few games with tying in the 4th and 5th but the Canadian had much of the answers to all the rallies with the Spaniard pushing for his chance at winning.
The second set tiebreak had gotten close but eventually went onto the racket of Denis Shapovalov. Rome may be another challenge as his next opponent will be Novak Djokovic. The Serbian used to be called 'The Joker' but there's nothing funny of the spins and slices and tactics he can put on comrades on the court and by the looks of it Denis Shapovalov isn't any joke either.
The Canadian is a serious opponent that has dug his way up the ATP ranking and is ready, willing and able to give a good game to any comrade he battles with from his bag of tennis tactic tricks.