The first match on Arthur Ashe is an intriguing battle between the teenage sensation Denis Shapovalov and a steady Spaniard having a career year in the shape of Pablo Carreno Busta. Both men have made serious breakthroughs in 2017, with Carreno Busta reaching a career high ranking. Shapovalov, meanwhile, had a magic run in Canada that has left him poised to become the next big name in men’s tennis. Both men will be looking to reach their first ever US Open quarter-final but who will come out on top?
Somewhat unsurprisingly, considering Shapovalov has played only 18 ATP Tour matches and five at Grand Slams, this clash will be the first meeting of the pair. It is also unsurprising that the Spaniard, who is eight years Shapovalov’s senior, has a considerable advantage in experience. Shapovalov has won 10 matches so far in his career on tour and two Challengers. Carreno Busta has 105 match wins on tour, three ATP titles and reached the quarter-finals in Paris this year. That being said, Shapovalov has a fair amount of experience under the spotlight already. He played on Arthur Ashe in his last two matches and won four matches on the stadium court in Montreal.
Path to the 4th round
Shapovalov had to come through the qualifying having broken into the top 100 after the cut off for the US Open was made. He did so comfortably enough, dropping only one set across the three matches. He began in the US Open proper against Daniil Medvedev, a fellow Next Gen contender. It looked a tough match on paper, but after a tight first set, Shapovalov dominated. He ran out a 7-5 6-1 6-2 winner. This was followed by a clash with eighth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. On paper, the Canadian stood little chance, but Shapovalov has thrived on the big occasion and has wins over Juan Martin del Potro and Rafael Nadal already this summer. Tsonga’s name was added to Shapovalov’s list of scalps as the teenager turned in a scintillating performance under the lights. He won in straight sets 6-4 6-4 7-6.
Shapovalov came into his third round match with Kyle Edmund, the last Briton standing in New York, as many people’s favourite. That seemed to weigh on him early on as he struggled for rhythm. The forehand that has already gained him fans across the tennis world was misfiring and he dropped the first set. But an early break in the second set helped the Canadian on his way and he began to impose himself on Edmund. The match was quickly levelled, and Shapovalov took the lead by winning the third. Edmund looked to be suffering physically, and this was confirmed when he withdrew after one game in the fourth.
Carreno Busta has been moving through the draw quietly but efficiently, away from the media glare that has focused on Shapovalov. He began against American qualifier Evan King, who was playing his first ever Grand Slam main draw. King looked outmatched early on, falling two sets behind. He fought hard to push Carreno Busta to a tie break in the third set but the Spaniard won it to move into the second round. His opponent there was another qualifier, Britain’s Cameron Norrie. Norrie gave his best but could do little to trouble Carreno Busta, who won 6-2 6-4 6-3. Carreno Busta then faced a third qualifier, Nicolas Mahut. The Frenchman had upset 20th seed Albert Ramos Vinolas in the second round, but never looked in danger of winning. He also fell in straight sets as Carreno Busta reached the last 16 in New York for the first time.
How do they match up?
Shapovalov plays tennis the way many fans want to see it played. He launches into almost every shot and is already a terrific shot maker. His one-handed backhand is also an exceptionally attractive stroke to watch and is sure to win him legions of fans, should he have a career as successful as many are predicting. But the core of his game is a powerful serve and an excellent forehand. His court coverage is also impressive although he leaves something to be desired with his defensive shots. Carreno Busta is, in many ways, the opposite to Shapovalov. He plays undramatic, but incredibly solid tennis, grinding down his opponents from the back of the court rather than attempting to hit through them as Shapovalov does.
One interesting battle will be between Carreno Busta’s backhand, which is one of the finest on tour, and Shapovalov’s forehand. Most cross-court forehands that the Canadian hits will be met with Carreno Busta’s backhand. Shapovalov will have to be wary of the Spaniard taking those backhands down the line, as there are few players who hit that shot more effectively. If Carreno Busta can regularly find his down the line backhand with pace, it could prove terminal for Shapovalov.
It’s difficult to not pick Shapovalov, but in this case, head must conquer heart. Carreno Busta has worked hard to establish himself as a top 20 player and has shown he belongs there with some excellent performances this year. His court coverage is excellent while his groundstrokes are penetrating and accurate. Shapovalov certainly has great upside, and may well return to lift the trophy in New York one day. But it will be Carreno Busta who progresses to the 2017 quarter-finals.
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