In what promises to be one of the most exciting matches of the round, Canadian #1 Denis Shapovalov takes on the in-form Fabio Fognini in front of his hometown crowd. Shapovalov made his name with a run to the semifinals in Montreal last year, feeding off a vocal crowd to fire him to victories over Juan Martin del Potro and Rafael Nadal, and his backing in Toronto is even louder. But Fognini will present a stern test indeed for the young Canuck. Who will come out on top?
Shapovalov and Fognini have never met before on Tour. The Italian does hold the edge in terms of experience, which is perhaps unsurprising as he is 12 years Shapovalov’s senior. He claimed his 318th victory in the first round and has won 8 titles including last week on the hard courts in Los Cabos. Shapovalov has won only 36 matches and has never lifted a title. But he has already matched Fognini’s record of two Masters 1000 semifinal appearances.
Path to the second round
Shapovalov, who arrived in Toronto off disappointing Wimbledon and Washington campaigns, began his tournament against Jeremy Chardy. Chardy had a superb June, winning 12 of his 14 matches, but his results tailed off in July and he was thoroughly outclassed in the first set. Shapovalov took it 6-1 in just 26 minutes. Chardy dug in in the second set, but handed Shapovalov a break with some loose play and, try as he might, he could not recover it as Shapovalov ran out a 6-1 6-4 winner.
Fognini, who has won nine of his last ten matches and lifted two titles in the last three weeks (Bastad and Los Cabos) opened his bid for Toronto glory against Steve Johnson of the United States. Johnson picked up a fourth career title in Newport last month, but faltered in Washington where he lost 4-6 5-7 to eventual finalist Alex De Minaur in the second round. His mood will not have been improved in Toronto, where Fognini bested him 6-4 6-4.
How do they match up?
Shapovalov has attracted such attention so early in his career not only because of his impressive results but also because of his explosive style. Equipped with a thunderous forehand which he launches into at every opportunity, and a powerful one-handed backhand, Shapovalov never hesitates to go on the attack. His lefty-serve is also a valuable weapon and bailed him out of trouble more than once against Chardy.
But where Chardy has a rather lopsided game, relying heavily on his forehand to cover a weak backhand, Fognini presents a threat from both wings. His forehand is his most dangerous weapon, but he is confident and comfortable stepping into his backhand, and he uses it down the line to good effect which may catch Shapovalov out of position. His serve, however, is a weakness that can be exposed and Shapovalov would do well to look to return aggressively from the outset.
As well as Fognini has played of late, Shapovalov looked untouchable for long stretches of his match against Chardy. He clearly thrives in front of his home crowd and has a game big enough to take the racquet out of almost anyone’s hands. How Fognini, not known for his calm demeanour on court, responds to what is sure to be a partisan atmosphere will be interesting. But even if it does not bother him, it will fire Shapovalov to a three-set victory.
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