SaltWire's Ask a Journalist: You have questions, let's find some ...
The latest weather columns and browse beautiful photos from Cindy Day
SaltWire's cartoonists bring heart and humour to the news.
NOW Atlantic: Smart thinking for a changing world
The latest on Nova Scotia's mass shooting
What you need to know about COVID-19: June 3
Visit SaltWire.com for more of the stories you want.
NEW YORK — It was supposed to be the popcorn match of the night, the highly anticipated duel between Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov, the young Canadians who are close friends and who are both considered to have top-five potential.
Instead, it was all Shapovalov, an awkward affair in which the 20-year-old from the Toronto suburbs steamrolled his 19-year-old pal from Montreal, 6-1, 6-1, 6-4. Auger-Aliassime, who had risen to 19th in the WTA rankings over an impressive first year at this level, looked like he didn’t know what hit him out there. Shapovalov played crisp and clean tennis in roaring out to the two-set lead, and eventually the crowd at the big Grandstand stadium seemed to tilt in Auger-Aliassime’s favour, if only because it didn’t want to see him be embarrassed. He made a better show of it in the third set, but Shapovalov managed another late service break and then closed him out.
“To be honest, I couldn’t figure out what to do,” Auger-Aliassime said after the match. He sounded as bewildered as he looked at times on the court. “I haven’t really figured out where I’m going to go from here, like what to think from that match,” he said. “I don’t even know what my emotions are regarding that match. I don’t know if I should be frustrated, sad. I’m not sure.”
Shapovalov said after the win that he appreciated the support from the large Canadian contingent. “Obviously, it’s kind of tough to know who to cheer for,” he said.
Asked about the challenge of playing a friend, Shapovalov said “it’s always tough. Especially with him, because he’s very close to me. But, obviously, not thinking about how he’s a friend of mine, I was just trying to treat him as any other player. Do my job and try to win.”
To that end, Shapovalov said he played “really clean tennis.”
“Definitely a very good match of mine,” he said. “Both mentally and tennis-wise, I was pretty flawless today, and really stayed focused and I was able to execute really well.”
POSPISIL WOWS AND UPSETS
One could be forgiven for imagining that Vasek Pospisil had moved on to a new phase in his tennis career. He had been out almost the entire of the 2019 season while recovering from back surgery, leaving him with a record of 0-2 for the year in ATP events. Meanwhile, he had become a prominent voice on the ATP’s players council, doing interviews in recent weeks in which he pressed for athletes to have more say over how they are compensated and calling for some sort of professional union.
Perhaps Pospisil had decided, after all the injury woes, that he could best contribute to the sport he loved by helping other players.
And then he went out on Tuesday night at the U.S. Open and played what was close to the match of his life.
The 29-year-old from Vancouver, who had fallen out of the top 200 in the ATP rankings, during what had been a lost season, beat Russian Karen Khachanov, the ninth seed at the U.S. Open, in a five-set leg-burner, 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, 4-6, 6-3. When it was over, Pospisil raised both hands over his head while standing on Court 12, and smiled a grin of what had to be relief. Relief that he had survived a five-setter with so little match practice this season, and relief, probably, that he had showed he could play tennis at a high level.
The win over Khachanov was Pospisil’s first victory over an opponent ranked in the top 20 at a Grand Slam event. Even during Pospisil’s run to the quarters of Wimbledon in 2015, he hadn’t managed to knock off someone in the top 20, let alone in the top 10.
“I played at a very high level. Executed the game plan really well. I mean, that was just to be super aggressive any time I had a little bit of time,” he said.
Pospisil said he was a little surprised he was able to hang in over five sets, but gave partial credit to the weather, which lacked the humidity often present at this tournament. “It wasn’t very hot,” he said with a grin. “I was very happy about that this morning when I woke up.”
Pospisil said that the procedure on his back has him feeling better than he has in several years.
“I felt, you know, even though I didn’t really have too many wins under my belt, pretty confident just with how I’ve been training and playing the last few matches,” he said.
Pospisil will play the fabulously named Tennys Sandgren, ranked 72nd in the world, in the second round at Flushing Meadows on Thursday.
WEIRD ‘ALL WEIRDOS’ COMMENT
Stefano Tsitsipas, the eight seed in New York, provided the tournament’s first bout of umpire-related controversy when he had a meltdown during a first-round loss on Tuesday to Andrey Rublev.
Tsitsipas was given a code violation for coaching. (His father is his coach, and he was at the least shouting words of encouragement, which isn’t that unusual.) Later, he was given a time violation warning as he suffered from leg cramps, and when umpire Damien Dumusois told him he was at risk of another, Tsitsipas went off.
“For some reason, you have something against me, I don’t know what — because you’re French probably,” he said, clearly picked up by microphones at court level. “And you’re all weirdos. You’re all weirdos.”
In his post-match interviews, Tsitsipas reiterated that he believed Dumusois had something against him. He did not clarify whether he meant that all the “weirdos” comment referred to umpires, or Frenchmen, or French umpires.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019