The Canadian Press
NEW YORK–Playing under the bright lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium last night was an intimidating task for Denis Shapovalov.
But as he has on several occasions already this year, the 18-year-old Canadian stayed loose under pressure–and it paid off.
Shapovalov advanced into the third round of the U.S. Open after a 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (3) upset victory over eighth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France.
“Like I said before the match, I was going in with nothing to lose,” said Shapovalov.
“I was having fun on the court,” he noted. “There was a couple times during the match that I was just smiling, having a good time.
“I was enjoying the atmosphere.
“It’s a dream come true for me to play a night match on Arthur Ashe,” Shapovalov added.
“I grew up wanting to do this.”
Shapovalov, ranked No. 69 in the world, started the match strong by breaking Tsonga’s serve on the first game of the opening set.
Both players held serve for the rest of the set.
The Richmond Hill, Ont., native had a big break in the second set when Tsonga double faulted to let Shapovalov go up 4-3.
He used that momentum to hold on and take a 2-0 set lead.
Shapovalov once again broke Tsonga to go up 4-3 in the third set, but the Frenchman got it back when Shapovalov was serving for the match to tie it at 5-5.
The third set went to a tiebreak, which Shapovalov dominated to win the match in two hours, 11 minutes.
“I don’t think that win was any bit routine,” Shapovalov stressed. “I played unbelievable today, very high level.
“I don’t know why, but I just managed to stay loose and go for my shots the whole match,” he added.
“I just stayed calm and just waited for my next chance, and took it.”
Shapovalov, who finished the match with 28 winners, gained entry into the main draw of the final Grand Slam tournament of the season last week with three victories in qualifying.
It’s been a great run of late for Shapovalov, who became the youngest man to reach a Masters semi-final earlier this month at the Rogers Cup in Montreal.
That tournament included an upset victory over world No. 1 Rafael Nadal.
“Every win that I’ve been going through, it’s been securing anyone’s doubts–or even my own doubts–about whether I belong with these guys, playing these high-level tournaments,” noted Shapovalov, who beat Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in the first round.
“This win, it’s definitely another confidence boost,” he said. “It shows that Montreal wasn’t a fluke week.
“I mean to do it back-to-back, it’s not easy.”
Shapovalov next will face Kyle Edmund of Britain.
It was an otherwise tough day for Canadians at the U.S. Open, with both Eugenie Bouchard and Vasek Pospisil eliminated.
Bouchard of Westmount, Que. fell 7-6 (2), 6-1 to Russia’s Evgeniya Rodina.
Now ranked 76th in the world, Bouchard has failed to make it past the second round of her last eight tournaments, starting with a second-round exit at the French Open.
In men’s action, Vancouver’s Pospisil retired from his match with Spain’s Fernando Verdasco after losing the first set 6-2.
Pospisil, who has been bothered by back pain and struggled through the opening set, met briefly with trainers during the changeover before withdrawing.