2017 finalist Kevin Anderson will be eager for another good run at a Major, after also making the final at Wimbledon (lost to Djokovic). Standing between him and a place in the fourth round is the young Canadian star Denis Shapovalov, who had a good run of his own in Flushing Meadows last year when he reached the fourth round. But will he be able to score another big win or will the tall South African keep his title challenge going?
This will be the first meeting between Anderson and Shapovalov. But it is the world #5 who unsurprisingly has the advantage in terms of experience. He is looking to reach the fourth round at a Grand Slam for the 14th time in his career and has just lost eight times in the third round. Shapovalov does have a 100% record in third round matches at the Majors, but he has only played one. He has, in fact, only played six main draws at the Slams in total. Anderson is playing his 38th.
Path to the third round
Anderson, the fifth seed, began his US Open campaign against Ryan Harrison of the United States and it proved to be an unexpectedly close contest. Anderson made a good start, staying focused to edge a tight first set in a tiebreak. Harrison then broke late in the second and third sets to move ahead. But he could not sustain his effort as Anderson battled back to win in five. He was rather more comfortable in dispatching his close friend Jeremy Chardy 6-2 6-4 6-4 in the second round.
Shapovalov’s opening assignment pitted him against his compatriot and erstwhile doubles partner Felix Auger-Aliassime. Shapovalov battled back from behind to take the first set, Auger-Aliassime replied by winning the second. But on a brutally hot day, Auger-Aliassime was taken ill and left the court in tears and being consoled by Shapovalov. The Canadian then had a battle of his own, as he edged past Andreas Seppi in five, 6-4 4-6 5-7 7-6 6-4.
How do they match up?
This match should provide an engaging contest between two powerfully equipped players. Anderson’s biggest weapon is unsurprisingly his serve, but he does not lack quality from the back of the court. His forehand is fearsomely powerful and his backhand is rock-solid. But, like many big men, he is not the most mobile and he can be exposed by low balls. Shapovalov may do well to feed Anderson slices although, with the courts bouncing high, that could be a risky strategy.
Nor would it be true to the way Shapovalov plays. Though he is often guilty of tactical naivety, he plays with the boisterousness and fearlessness of a teenager well aware of just how good he is. And he has weapons of his own. His forehand is his best, but his backhand is the shot that sets him apart, a flamboyant single-hander sure to earn him legions of fans over the coming years. His serve is powerful, but is currently being adjusted and he does not look entirely comfortable with it yet.
The last year has been by some distance the best of Anderson’s career. But he had been threatening to break into the game’s elite for some time and may well have done so sooner had it not been for a number of serious injuries sustained in 2016. He has a well-rounded game and plenty of power and is putting his mental demons to bed one by one. So whilst Shapovalov may be the future, the today will be about the South African. Anderson in four.