The Canadian teenager, Denis Shapovalov, leaves the US Open having made a huge impact on the sport which, in the absence of major players like Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka the title holder, was worried that this year’s edition at Flushing Meadows would be solely reliant on veterans like Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal.
The 18-year-old has guaranteed that there will be life after the current generation in the form of the Big Four when they flame out.
“It was very tough, because three hours, three sets, three tiebreaks. But, of course, it was an amazing victory for me Pablo Carreno Busta
The 18-year-old’s run into the fourth round was impressive and even his loss to the 12th seeded Pablo Carreno Busta was no surrender as he battled for nearly three hours before, on his sixth match point, conceding a gripping 7-6(2) 7-6 (4) 7-6 (3) win to the Spaniard.
“The month of August has been absolutely life-changing for me,” said Shapovalov, the first qualifier to reach the final 16 here since Gilles Müller nine years ago.
He leaves just his second slam tournament as the youngest player to reach the fourth round here since Michael Chang 28 years ago and had hoped to emulate Andre Agassi’s feat of 1988 when he made the quarters at the same age.
There were many opportunities for Shapovalov to have progressed but the more experienced Spaniard was able to find the answers at crucial moments to keep the new kid on the block at bay which was well illustrated by the 55 errors he made with his aggressive game to his opponents’ 25.
“In the tie-breaks I played perfect. I played very aggressive,” Carreno Busta explained following the win that takes him into the last eight at the US Open for the first time in his career.
“It was very tough, because three hours, three sets, three tiebreaks. But, of course, it was an amazing victory for me,” the youngest Spaniard in the draw added.
And Shapovalov agreed that it was Careno Busta’s mental strength in the tie-break which tipped the balance. “He stayed very tough mentally in the big points. He just played three tiebreaks that were better than mine.”
With the bottom half of the draw wide open, Carreno Busta becomes the favourite to reach the final solely based on the fact that he is now the highest seed left in that section.
However the 29-year-old Sam Querrey might well have a say in the matter. The big serving American. seeded 17, with the crowd desperate to see one of their nationals finally make the latter stages after so many years in the doldrums.
He delivered a master class of serving as he blitzed his way past Mischa Zvererv 6-2 6-2 6-1 in just 75-minutes. In the process he struck 18 aces, made 55 winners and just 8 unforced errors in what was the shortest men’s singles match of the tournament to become the first American male to reach the quarter-finals at Flushing Meadows since 2011.
A resurgent Kevin Anderson however, stand in his way. The South African, seeded 28, is back on form after lengthy battles with hip and leg injuries but his big serving is the equal of Querrey.
At 31, Anderson made the last eight at Flushing Meadows for the second time by defeating Paolo Lorenzi of Italy, 6-4 6-3 6-7(4) 6-4 and no doubt hopes that the torn nail which he broke in his right foot during the match, would not hamper his further performances.
“A lot of stopping and starting, so the toenails take a bit of a beating,” said the Florida-based Springbok, who said he didn’t feel the pain as the match concluded.
“That’s actually always interesting. You’re out there with so much adrenaline, you’re feeling fine. Now I can barely put a shoe on. It will be fine. Just tape it up and I’ll be good.”
He has also fired 18 aces and struck the third-fastest serve of the tournament at 137mph.
The last quarter final place in the bottom half was filled by the diminutive Diego Schwartzman from Argentina. Standing just 5’7” in his tennis socks, he is dwarfed by the likes of Querrey and Anderson who are virtually a foot taller!
But he has proved over recent months that he has a big heart and like David, can bring down the Goliath’s of the tennis world as he has proved this week with wins over the likes of former champion Marin Cilic.
Having reached the last eight of a grand slam for the first time in his career by beating 16th-seeded Lucas Pouille, 7-6(3) 7-5 2-6 6-2, he can now look forward to facing Carreno Busta for a place in the semis.
“It’s not just for the big guys here,” the 25-year-old Schwartzman said. “The big guys have a little bit of advantage to play tennis because they can serve better, they can do a lot of things better. If you are small, you just need to be focused in many things. It’s not easy, but I am here.”
And he is there despite picking up a left leg injury in the third set which looked to have brought his challenge to an end. Some quick work and taping to the upper part of his leg by the trainer during the change-over repaired the damage sufficiently for him to return and take charge.
“At the end of the third set, I was really worried about it, because he told me, ‘I can’t move,’” his coach Juan Ignacio Chela said. “He’d started to feel very powerful pain in his right leg.”
Chela went on to add: “It was strange, the end of the match because Lucas started to make errors, and Diego was really, really focused until the end.”
Pouille admitted he had let Schwartzman’s injury distract him. “It’s not easy to play against someone you’re not sure what’s going on with,” the Frenchman said. “I’m hesitating between just putting the ball in the court or being aggressive, and at the end I lose my timing, I get tight and I can’t stay in the match at all. He seemed to get better and better, but I lost my mind on my own and it’s a pity.”