In a clash between two young guns with big games, Canada’s teen sensation Denis Shapovalov meets Britain’s Kyle Edmund in the second match on Arthur Ashe. The pair are not without history and bring explosive forehands to the court. Both men will be looking to take another step towards the top of the game with a good run in New York. But who will come out on top?
Shapovalov and Edmund have met twice so far in their careers. The first match, during a Davis Cup tie this year, made headlines around the world but unfortunately not for tennis reasons. In what was a deciding fifth rubber, Shapovalov looked outclassed by Edmund and was trailing two sets to love. After being broken in the third set, in his frustration he smashed the ball out of court, but unfortunately rather than sailing into the crowd, it hit the umpire’s face. Shapovalov was of course defaulted, but fortunately, it seems to be an experience that the Canadian has learned from. He was also able to get some revenge against Edmund at Queen’s Club in June. It was a hard fought three set win but one which now appears as a sign of the greater things that were to come from Shapovalov.
Path to the 3rd round
Shapovalov began his US Open campaign as a qualifier but came through comfortably. He was drawn against Daniil Medvedev in a difficult first round encounter. After a tight first set, the Canadian cruised home to victory. He came through a 7-5 6-1 6-2 winner to set up a meeting with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the eighth seed. They played under the lights on Ashe, and Shapovalov was electric. He broke Tsonga immediately and held his serve for the rest of the set to take the opener. He broke Tsonga again early in the second before seeing it out. When he broke Tsonga in the third victory looked assured, but Tsonga was not going to go quietly into the night. He broke back and forced a tie break. But the Canadian wasn’t to be denied, and he won it to reach the third round.
Edmund began against the 32nd seed Robin Haase, who he dispatched comfortably in straight sets, winning 6-3 7-5 6-3. He next faced American Steve Johnson, who was unsurprisingly backed by the vocal majority of fans. Edmund had the better start, breaking early, but his concentration failed when he served for the set. Johnson battled back to break but then threw away the hard work by being broken again. At the second time of asking Edmund made no mistake, sealing the set 7-5. He dominated the second set, winning it 6-2. The third set was tight, going to a tie break, but Edmund had enough to win it and reach the third round for the second straight year.
How do they match up?
Both men are big hitters. Edmund has one of the biggest forehands on tour and is adept at hitting the ball from that wing with power or slowing the ball and using more topspin. His movement has also improved considerably this year though it is some way short of the best on tour. His backhand and second serve are also serious weaknesses that can be exploited. Shapovalov is also equipped with a huge forehand and very easy power. His backhand is weaker but is powerful enough that it is difficult to attack the Canadian there. Shapovalov’s movement is also surprisingly good for such a young athlete. His volleys looked to be a weakness in Canada but in New York so far, his net play has been very solid.
One key battle will be how Edmund’s backhand holds up in cross-court rallies. With Shapovalov being a left hander, he will be able to trade cross-court from his strength to Edmund’s weakness. Edmund will have to play a tactically astute match to avoid that becoming a major problem.
Shapovalov has been playing superb tennis over the past couple of tournaments and has looked incredibly assured at the US Open so far this year. His game looks superior to Edmund’s, whose backhand can be too easily exploited. Of course, Shapovalov could turn in a poor performance, and how he will cope with the stresses of long best-of-five set matches is not yet clear. But he carries a great swell of optimism with him, and it’s difficult to see him losing. Shapovalov in four sets.
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