They had met up with one another two years ago at the US Open, but Denis Shapovalov might have forgotten the fine points on how to beat his countryman Felix Auger-Aliassime here at the 2021 Melbourne slam. Shapovalov had wiped out Auger-Aliassime back at the US Open in straight sets.
Now I guess it was time for a grudge match because the Montreal native had completely forgotten they were buddies and laid down some expert shotmaking on his fellow Canadian, big time. Auger-Aliassime won 7-5, 7-5, 6-3 with it being his first appearance at the Australian Open.
Shapovalov has had a dogged time in Melbourne and his tournament before the Australian Open were struggles where he didn't go deep into any event except the semifinal at the French Open. In this happy slam he has gone through some tough times.
The first round against Jannik Sinner he wasn't allowed a bathroom break. "What do you mena I can't go? Are you going to disqualify me? What happens if I go? Shapovalov was furious. Players supposed to have two breaks in a 5 set match.
The second round with Bernard Tomic was nearly a walkover, even though Tomic was there physically. He had 40 unforced errs and played alow energy match the entire time.
On many shots he even didn't give a chance to even get to the ball
The match of the Canadians was well played and filled with up and down moments.
Felix Auger-Aliassime was ahead in the first set 6-5 but Shapovalov couldn't push the opening into a tiebreak and lost that set 7-5. In starting the second set, Shapovalov led 4-3 but soon Auger-Aliassime went down the line and the Ontario guy wasn't in the court position to hit the return.
The Montreal native was just able to hit that one more ball for a victory point and proved it nearly throughout the 7-5, 7-5, 6-3 match. In evaluating his performance, Shapovalov admitted "I started really well. I had all the momentum than I just got very tight...A couple of loose errors and that was pretty much the difference."
Despite Auger-Aliassime's win he still can acknowledge his Canadian buddy's skill saying that "His garm causes me problems like a lot of players." The Montreal guy confessed that "It was a big challenge to come through in 3 sets like that..."
It was tough on both players. Shapovalov sees his game differently than most saying "I lost today, but I am happy with the way things are going in practice, with the way I'm improving..." Shapovalov gave kudos to his Canadian comrade saying "I think he was serving really good today, moving really well and putting a lot of returns on the court.
Overalll he was playing very solid...It was impressive to see..." The next meeting Shapovalov might have evaluated his game compared to his buddy's and come up with the winning shots at the end to call their match, his victory.
Denis Shapovalov talking optimistically looks at where he came from in his gameplay and how he is now saying "I actually feel like my game is there."