It took Denis Shapovalov just 100-minutes to dispose of the three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka 6-4 7-5 and reach the semi-finals of the St Petersburg Open.
I tried to play both these points from my first serve. I started to make many errors and decided to take one step back and to calm down. I am happy everything went well Denis Shapovalov
In what was an exceptional battle between two exponents of the single-handed backhand, Shapovalov, the second see and title favourite following the elimination of Daniil Medvedev, will take on another strong Russian, Andrey Rublev, seeded three, who made light work of Cameron Norrie.
The in-form Rublev, seeded three, required 62-minutes to sweep past the British No.3 6-2 6-1 in pursuit of his home title.
Having saved four break points in his in his first two service games, Shapovalov asserted himself and broke the Swiss decisively in the fifth game togo and take the set.
There were some excellent exchanges in the opening games of the second with both players exchanging breaks but while both players vied for opportunities, it was Shapovalov who won through in the 11th and then saving two break points as he served out for the match in the next game.
“I tried to play both these points from my first serve. I started to make many errors and decided to take one step back and to calm down. I am happy everything went well,” Shapovalov, speaking in Russian, said in his press conference.
In the top half of the drawn the unseeded Reilly Opelka failed to follow up his excellent win over the top seed Medvedev to crash out 7-6(3) 6-3 to Borna Coric, seeded 7.
The American 6’11” giant hammered 16 aces past his Croat challenger but despite his bazooka serve, he allowed a 5-2 lead in the opening set to slip away as the greater all-court ability of Coric, slowly wore him down.
After saving three set points at 3-5 with some aggressive play, Coric recovered to get back on serve and force a tie-break where he took command, breaking Opelka in the fourth game of the second set which he held to claim the match after 82-minutes.
“I was playing some of my best tennis today,” Coric said later.
“In the first set, I started slow and I didn’t find my rhythm. I was not in the shape, but as the match progressed, I was playing better and better. I did find also my [depth] on the return and also in the rallies.
“At the beginning, I was not serving really good when I lost the break. [But] in the return points, I was playing better and better. I did start to read a little bit better his serve and I just felt more confident coming into the return.”
His experiences against Opelka should help in his semi-final when he faces another big server, Milos Raonic. The difference between the Canadian and the American being that the former is the more experienced and should provide a stronger challenge.
Raonic beat Russia’s powerful Karen Khachanov 6-1 7-6(1) after 86-minutes striking 15 aces to maintain his record at the event of not dropping his serve throughout the week.
“It was a great match for me,” said the World No. 21 in his on-court interview. “From the beginning, I knew it was going to be tough. I knew I was going to have to bring my best tennis and I did from the start of the match. I think that really helped me a lot and I am just happy with my level overall.”
The possibility of two Canadians meeting in the final is now an intriguing possibility.