Zverev Takes #NextGenATP SF Clash In Montreal
Looking for a glimpse into the future of the ATP World Tour? The stars of tomorrow put on a dazzling display under the lights on Saturday at the Coupe Rogers, as Alexander Zverev defeated Denis Shapovalov for a spot in the final.
The #NextGenATP showdown went the way of the fourth-seeded German 6-4, 7-5, who reached his second ATP World Tour Masters 1000 final of the year (won Rome title). He will play for a fifth title overall in 2017 against Roger Federer on Sunday.
Zverev's victory was a historic one, as the World No. 8 became the first to qualify for the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, to be held from 7-11 November. The top seven players in the Emirates ATP Race To Milan qualify, with the eighth spot reserved for a wild card.
Zverev silenced a packed, partisan Court Central crowd, but it was far from a routine victory. Shapovalov gave the Montreal faithful plenty to cheer for with his spirited exuberance.
"I told him he had a great run, well done to him, to not worry too much that he lost today," said Zverev. "I also told him that this is just the first match of very, very many that we will play against him. Hopefully a lot of other big matches, maybe in Grand Slams, maybe in finals of tournaments. I just told him that this is the beginning for him."
Zverev had too much firepower in the big moments. In previous matches this week, Shapovalov used his kicking forehand to drive his opponents back and set up his devastating backhand finish. At 6'6", Zverev refused to be pushed around. The German forced the Canadian off the baseline with deep, penetrating groundstrokes and a blistering cross-court backhand winner would give him his first break points at 4-4. A Shapovalov double fault handed Zverev the break and he would close out the set one game later.
It was a nervy start to the second set for both players, with Shapovalov broken on four unforced errors to open proceedings and Zverev broken back with two straight misfired groundstrokes. The 18-year-old Richmond Hill native would dig deep to earn a pair of clutch holds, including one from 0/40 down at 4-4. But a double fault while facing break point at 5-5 earned Zverev the decisive break.
A 16-point final game was a fitting punctuation mark. Shapovalov turned aside a pair of match points, while Zverev denied three break points. A backhand pulled wide would seal it for the German, who claimed the first FedEx ATP Head2Head clash in one hour and 43 minutes. Their meeting was the youngest semi-final on the ATP World Tour since 18-year-old Kei Nishikori defeated 20-year-old Sam Querrey in Delray Beach in 2008.
Zverev is now up to 45 wins on the season, tying his career-high from 2016 and is just two shy of Rafael Nadal’s tour-leading 47 victories in 2017. At 20 years, three months, he is the youngest Coupe Rogers finalist since Novak Djokovic won the 2007 title. Moreover, he has won nine matches in 11 days, having sprinted to the Citi Open title one week ago.
On Sunday, the fourth seed will clash against second seed Federer in what will be their third FedEx ATP Head2Head battle. The Swiss owns a 2-1 lead, including a convincing 6-1, 6-3 victory in this year's Gerry Weber Open final.
"I think he's definitely the favourite," added Zverev. "He's been playing amazing tennis. He pretty much won every single big tournament he played this year. I feel like I'm playing well, so I know that I have to serve a lot better tomorrow than I did today. That was I think the thing that I struggled the most with today.
"But, you know, I played in five finals this year. I won four. The one that I lost was against Roger. There's a reason for it. I'm happy to be in the final. I'll try to enjoy as much as I can."
Despite seeing his dream run come to an end, Shapovalov will hold his head high after a breakthrough week at his home ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event. The 18-year-old Canadian became the youngest player to reach a Masters 1000 semi-final and will break into the Top 100 of the Emirates ATP Rankings, projected to rise to No. 67. His run to the semi-finals gave the home fans plenty of reason to cheer as the future of Canadian tennis was on full display with signature upsets of Juan Martin del Potro and Rafael Nadal. Shapovalov is schedule to feature at next week's ATP Challenger Tour event in Vancouver, which is set to get underway on Monday.
"It's a little bit disappointing, this loss today, because I felt like I had a chance, but Sascha played too good in the big moments," said Shapovalov. "I don't think I played that well in those moments. I gave away a lot of breaks with double faults. I wasn't even letting him play those points.
"But credit to him, he's playing with so much confidence. He really put the pressure on me. I don't think it's going to affect my week. I mean, I've had the week of my life. Sascha is an unbelievable player. Actually it's pretty nice to see how my game matches up against him, to see that I can compete with a great player like him."