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Australian Open quarter-finalist Denis Shapovalov is embracing being part of Canada’s tennis uprising as his strong – but complicated – start to the year continues.
Shapovalov scored one of the best wins of his career on Sunday, ousting third-seeded German Alex Zverev in straight sets in a result with major Australian Open title ramifications.
The 2021 Wimbledon semi-finalist’s 6-3 7-6 (7-5) 6-3 defeat of Zverev, in their first grand slam clash, was his third win in their past four meetings.
Shapovalov, 22, helped Canada win the ATP Cup in the first week of the year, alongside Felix Auger-Aliassime, who will try to emulate his countryman’s last-eight effort against Marin Cilic on Monday.
That followed Shapovalov recovering from his Covid-19 diagnosis on arrival in Australia, and he has survived a number of tense matches to make it this far.
Only Milos Raonic and Michael Belkin had ever reached the quarter-finals in Melbourne among Canadian men in the Open Era, before 14th-seeded Shapovalov matched them on Sunday.
“I think what we’ve been doing has been amazing, especially with the start of the season, for Canada, lifting probably the first team title in tennis in history,” Shapovalov said.
“It’s not a super-easy time in Canada right now, so hopefully it’s just shedding a little bit of light and people have something to watch and cheer for and follow.
“It’s great to be doing it alongside a guy like Felix, who’s obviously a remarkable player as well, and we’ve come up from the juniors together. It’s a pretty special story, I think.”
With Novak Djokovic not in the tournament, this was supposed to be an opportunity for Zverev to break his grand slam duck after a six-title season in 2021 that included the ATP Finals.
Instead, the 24-year-old exits another grand slam without a top-10 scalp and still in search of a career-defining triumph.
Zverev said afterwards he arrived in Melbourne on the hunt for the Australian Open title and with a goal to overtake Djokovic at the top of the men’s game but that such talk was “very silly” now.
Reigning US Open champion Daniil Medvedev now looms as the clear player to beat, even with Shapovalov’s next opponent, Rafael Nadal, still in the draw.
“It’s always an honour to go up against a guy like Rafa,” Shapovalov said.
“We played not too long ago in an exhibition (in Abu Dhabi in December) – completely different conditions, completely different match, but it’s always fun.”
- by Marc McGowan, news.com.au