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.
The win marked the third straight year in which the 20-year-old Canadian has won at least two matches at Flushing Meadows
NEW YORK, N.Y. — It wasn’t the overwhelming performance of his first-round thumping of compatriot Felix Auger-Aliassime, but Denis Shapovalov rolled again in New York on Thursday, beating Henri Laaksonen in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6(2), 6-2, to advance to the third round of the U.S. Open.
The win marked the third straight year in which the 20-year-old Canadian has won at least two matches at Flushing Meadows. In his limited time on the ATP Tour, Shapvalov has won more matches here than in the other three Grand Slam events combined.
“I think, first of all, when you kind of have history at a tournament you’ve done well at, you have that feeling every time you come back, that you’re able to play well on these courts,” Shapovalov said after his win. “The atmosphere, the people, the city, it all kind of helps me. I feel really comfortable whenever I come to New York.”
It was here that, as an 18-year-old, Shapovalov made the fourth round not long after making the semi-finals of the Rogers Cup in 2017, the Summer of Shapo.
“Every year I’ve been back here, I’ve been more and more excited to come back. I fell in love with the city. I fell in love with the atmosphere,” he said.
“I think I’m just really excited whenever this time of year comes around. I think that really helps me kind of bring that fire out from inside me. Obviously that’s when I do play my best tennis.”
Shapovalov, who has been ranked as high as 20 th on the ATP Tour but has dropped back to 33 rd and been passed by his friend Auger-Aliassime, acknowledged that there is a bit of a 2017 vibe going on now that he is unseeded here again.
“I mean, it sucks not to be seeded,” he said. “It sucks to be in that position. I knew it could be a really tough draw going into it, not being seeded.”
But also: “On the other side, for sure, it kind of helps motivate you to try to beat a guy higher ranked than you, a guy that’s seeded,” he said.
Shapovalov will have a chance to do that again on Saturday, when he will take on Gael Monfils of France in the third round.
“I’ve never played against him. I’m a big fan of his. He’s been so exciting to watch from when I was super young,” Shapovalov said of the 32-year-old Frenchman who has been ranked as high as sixth in the world. “I’ve always seen him come out with crazy points, crazy hot shots. He’s so athletic on the court. I think he’s one of the best athletes in the world in any sport,” he said. “I’m expecting a long battle.”
Vasek Pospisil, the 29-year-old from Vernon, B.C., could not keep up the Canadian winning streak on Thursday, falling to American Tennys Sandgren in four sets (6-3, 6-7, 6-3, 6-4).
The match became a raucous affair on the relatively small outdoor Court 13, with the Canadian fans duelling in chants and cheers with an American cohort that swelled as the match went on. By the time it ended at 9:30 local time, it was one of very few still taking place on the non-ticketed outdoor courts, which caused many fans to filter over and check in out.
Pospisil, who beat ninth-seeded Karen Khachanov in a five-set first-round match on Tuesday, has missed most of this season while recovering from back surgery.
That Tuesday win took a lot out of him, with Pospisil saying on Thursday night that he was surprised he was still sore when he woke up that morning. “I’m obviously not used to playing a five-set match, and of that intensity, on Tuesday, and I was 10, 15 per cent less fresh today. That was the difference, I think, honestly.”
As for the loud crowd, the Canadian said he wasn’t in the ideal situation to take advantage of it. “I usually like that, but I was so tired I was trying to conserve energy,” he said.
Pospisil said he usually likes to feed off the crowd if it gets rowdy, but not in this particular case. “I would normally love to play in that atmosphere, but today I was just in survival mode.”
Naomi Osaka, the world number one and the defending champion at the U.S. Open, had a couple of celebrity guests in her player’s box at Arthur Ashe Stadium on Thursday: Kobe Bryant and Colin Kaepernick.
Although no one asked her if she was deliberately trying to find people about which there are no shortage of strong feelings, Osaka did say she didn’t feel any special pressure to perform in front of the big names.
“I mean, I don’t feel like it’s pressure, but I do feel like I did want to play well,” she said. “It’s just funny to me. You know, like, last year compared to this year there is no way, like, Kobe would sit in my box,” she said with a smile. “Yeah, Kaepernick, too. It’s just crazy who you run into in life.”
Then she pointed out the real thing she was worried about: “It was just like I really didn’t want them to sit in the sun too long, honestly. That was the thing that was on my mind. I was, like, I don’t really want to play a third set.”
She didn’t, beating Magda Linette in straight sets.
The upsets continued on Bianca Andreescu’s side of the women’s singles draw on Thursday. First, six-seeded Petra Kvitova, the two-time Wimbledon champion, was knocked out by Andrea Petkovic. Later, Simona Halep, the former world number one and two-time Grand Slam champ, was beaten by American qualifier Taylor Townsend. Halep was the fourth seed here.
Townsend, 23, was in tears on the Ashe court in a television interview after the career win.
“I put my head down and just worked really hard and just tried to, like, take the positives away from it, just continue to press forward,” she said. “I think for so long that’s been kind of, like, my whole thing, is just continue to press forward and just realize that, like, I belong on this level. You know what I mean? I’ve had a lot of people doubting me being able to break through, quote unquote.”
The wins from Townsend and Petkovic mean that only three of eight seeds are left after two rounds in Andreescu’s quarter of the draw: the Canadian herself (15), Belgium’s Elise Mertens (25) and Caroline Wozniacki (19), who will be Andreescu’s opponent in the third round. The two met in Auckland last winter, where Andreescu won 6-4, 6-4. On Thursday she called that victory her breakthrough win.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019