In a battle between last year’s semifinalists, the last Canadian standing Denis Shapovalov takes on the Netherlands’ Robin Haase for a place in the quarterfinals in Toronto. It has been another season of progress for Shapovalov, who has cracked the top 25 and reached the semifinals in Madrid. Robin Haase, meanwhile, has had comparatively little spotlight-worthy success, but as ever he has been consistent. Who will come out on top?
Shapovalov and Haase have met once so far in a clash that came earlier this year on the clay courts of the Foro Italico in Rome. Shapovalov, who came into that match off the back of the best clay court results of his career in Madrid, edged out the Dutchman in the first set, winning it 7-6. But Haase struck back in the second set, winning it in another tiebreak. In the decider, however, the Canadian’s greater power told as he broke through to win 7-6 6-7 6-3.
Path to the third round
With both men unseeded, neither received a first-round bye. For Shapovalov that meant beginning his tournament against the big-hitting Frenchman Jeremy Chardy. In the first set, however, Chardy couldn’t get close to Shapovalov who raced away with it. The second was more competitive, but it was still Shapovalov playing the better tennis and he ran out a deserved 6-1 6-4 victor. He then bested Fabio Fognini, rallying from a 0-4 deficit in the second set on the way to a 6-3 7-5 win.
Haase faced the tough first-round draw of 2016 finalist Kei Nishikori. The first set was tight, but Haase struck late to win it 7-5. A break early in the second seemed to shatter Nishikori’s belief, and despite his attempts to stage a late stand, Haase was largely untroubled in wrapping up the 7-5 6-1 win. He then ousted the soon-to-retire Mikhail Youzhny, who had replaced the injured Juan Martin del Potro in the draw, but could offer Haase little challenge in a 5-7 2-6 loss.
How do they match up?
Just as in Montreal last year, Shapovalov has been winning in Toronto by hitting his opponents off the court. His forehand was devastating against Chardy and Fognini, and his backhand did some real damage as well. He has also been using his lefty serve to good effect, particularly when under pressure as evidenced by his having saved eight of the ten break points he has faced so far. If he can continue to serve so effectively, it will take an excellent returning performance to stop him.
That is not an area of Haase’s game for which he is renowned. But he does have plenty of tricks up his sleeve. For whilst Haase can not match the power of Shapovalov, although he does have a handy first serve and forehand, he excels at unsettling opponents by giving them different looks and spins, with the high looping forehand and knifed backhand slice particularly effective tools of his. He is also a fine volleyer and will likely look to approach the net often in this one.
This is arguably the biggest test Shapovalov has faced so far in Toronto, but the 19-year-old has passed the first two he has faced with flying colours for which he deserves great credit. His groundstrokes have been firing and neither Chardy nor Fognini could withstand the heat. Haase will take a different approach, and won’t try to go toe-to-toe with Shapovalov. But even so, it's hard to see how can he come up with enough answers for Shapovalov’s power to win. Shapovalov in three.