National Post (National Edition)
SHAPOVALOV SURVIVES FIRST-ROUND SCARE
`Today was just incredible tennis from both of us'
MELBOURNE • Canadian 11th seed Denis Shapovalov outlasted Italian Jannik Sinner 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 in an enthralling battle of `Next Gen' stars on Monday to move into the second round of the Australian Open.
In the final clash on Margaret Court Arena on the opening day of the Grand Slam, the 21-year-old Shapovalov and Sinner, 19, put on a master class of clean hitting and athleticism in a first career meeting between them.
“Today was just incredible tennis from both of us,” Shapovalov said. “Honestly, I think Jannik is super talented. He's such an amazing player, he's a great guy, great worker. I'm sure he's going to be a very, very tough opponent in the future ... I'm a really big fan of his game and how he is.”
In an evenly-contested match with hardly anything to choose between the two youngsters, Sinner, who on Sunday became the youngest to win two ATP titles since Novak Djokovic in 2006, made a fast start to jump to a 3-0 lead before taking the set.
Against Sinner's immaculate hitting and robust court coverage, Shapovalov needed to raise his game and the world No. 12 managed to find an extra gear and some more power behind his shots to take the next two sets.
Having played both singles and doubles almost everyday in the tune-up event the past week, Sinner's legs seemed to have run out of juice when he fell back 3-1 in the fourth set.
But the 32nd-ranked Italian found the energy to stage a fightback and level the contest at 2-2.
Before the deciding set, Shapovalov had a lengthy argument with the chair umpire after being denied a toilet break. He then received some medical attention for a shoulder niggle and returned to the court to break Sinner in the opening game.
After almost four hours, Shapovalov sealed the contest at almost 1 a.m. in the morning with a forehand winner down the line on his second match point to set up a second-round meeting against Australian Bernard Tomic.
“Matches like this is so much fun for me to play, this is why I play the sport,” Shapovalov said. “Win or lose today, it's one of the matches that I'm going to remember in my career just because ... the moment, the quality of tennis today, it was just so much fun to be out here.”
Meanwhile, Novak Djokovic got his Australian Open title defence off to a rollicking start, breezing past Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 6-1, 6-2 on Rod Laver Arena on Monday.
The world No. 1, who has won eight of his 17 major titles at Melbourne Park, rattled off 41 winners and did not face a single break point en route to victory.
Canada’s Milos Raonic, the No. 14 seed, moved into round two with a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 win over Argentina’s Federico Coria. Raonic struck 51 winners compared to just nine from his opponent and wrapped up the match in 95 minutes.
Montreal's Felix Auger-Aliassime, the No. 20 seed, downed Germany’s Cedrik-Marcel Stebe 6-2, 6-4, 6-2.
Nick Kyrgios treated the sparse crowd at the John Cain Arena to some vintage moments — a racket thrown across the court, and a few choice words towards his box and the umpire — as he sailed to a 6-4 6-4, 6-4 victory over qualifier Frederico Ferreira Silva.
Alexander Zverev overcame an inconsistent start and a smashed racket to battle past unheralded American Marcos Giron 6-7(8) 7-6(5) 6-3, 6-2, while U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem fended off Mikhail Kukushkin 7-6(2) 6-2 6-3.
On the women’s side, Canada’s Bianca Andreescu, the No. 8 seed, was made to work hard on her return to competition after 15 months, but the 2019 U.S. Open winner dug deep to see off Mihaela Buzarnescu of Romania 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.
Serena Williams kick-started her bid for a record-equalling 24th Grand Slam title with a 6-1 6-1 drubbing of Germany's Laura Siegemund before rushing off the court to watch Tom Brady win his seventh Super Bowl.
World No. 2 Simona Halep sealed a comfortable 6-2, 6-1 victory over Australian wild card Lizette Cabrera in the first round at the Rod Laver Arena.
Romanian Halep, a 2018 finalist, hit 14 winners compared to seven from Cabrera, who is ranked 140.
Third seed Naomi Osaka was the first player through to the second round after a 6-1, 6-2 thrashing of Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova.
“I'm just really happy to see people in the stands. It was a bit lonely in New York, so thank you guys,” Osaka, who cut short her 2020 season after winning the U.S. Open in September, told a small crowd at Rod Laver Arena.
In other action on Monday, Dominic Thiem (3), Diego Schwartzman (8), Stan Wawrinka (17) and Grigor Dimitrov (18) moved into the second round on the men's side, while unseeded Canadian Rebecca Marino, Venus Williams, Aryna Sabalenka (7) and Petra Kvitova (9) advanced.
IT'S ONE OF THE MATCHES THAT I'M GOING TO REMEMBER.
Los Angeles Lakers star big man Anthony Davis missed Monday night's game against the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder with a right Achilles tendon injury, the team announced.
ESPN reported that Davis underwent imaging to determine the severity of the injury and nothing concerning was discovered.
The 27-year-old Davis has reportedly been dealing with discomfort in the leg over recent weeks.
Davis played 45 minutes in Los Angeles' 135-129 double-overtime victory over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday.
He had 30 points but just five rebounds.
Overall, Davis is averaging 22.3 points and 8.6 rebounds in 21 games this season.