Shapo­valov falls to Djokovic in Paris final

Young Cana­dian player will rise to a ca­reer-high No. 15 in the rank­ings

The Peterborough Examiner - - SPORTS -

PARIS — De­nis Shapo­valov was ex­cited to step on the court for his first ap­pear­ance in a Masters 1000 ten­nis final.

Then No­vak Djokovic’s serve quickly got in his way.

The Cana­dian was beaten, 6-3, 6-4, by the top-ranked Djokovic on Sun­day in the final of the Paris Masters.

“He just places (his serve) well. It’s tough to read,” Shapo­valov said of his op­po­nent’s most ef­fec­tive weapon against him Sun­day. “He changes it up, has a good va­ri­ety. He was re­ally pick­ing his spots today.

“So I had maybe one chance, but it was tough. I mean, he played solid.”

Shapo­valov fired 11 aces to Djokovic’s two and won 83 per cent of his first-ser­vice points, but the 20-year-old also dou­ble-faulted three times and had prob­lems re­turn­ing through­out the match.

Djokovic saved the only break point he faced over the course of the match, which lasted just one hour eight min­utes, and con­verted on two of four break points.

He served out the match with a love hold, hit­ting a fore­hand win­ner be­fore turn­ing to look at his box and rais­ing his arms in tri­umph. “Hon­estly, it was tough for me to kind of find a groove just be­cause he was re­ally, re­ally pick­ing his spots on the serve,” Shapo­valov said.

Djokovic agreed with Shapo­valov’s as­sess­ment.

“It was my best serv­ing per­for­mance of the tour­na­ment,” he said. “De­nis maybe lost his fo­cus a bit.”

The loss capped a solid week for the player from Rich­mond Hill, Ont., who will rise to a ca­reer-high No. 15 when the new rank­ings are re­leased Mon­day. His pre­vi­ous ca­reer high was No. 20, and he came into the Paris Masters at No. 28.

Shapo­valov de­feated high­er­ranked op­po­nents in three straight matches to reach the semi­fi­nals of the tour­na­ment, in­clud­ing an up­set over No. 6 Alexan­der Zverev in the round of 16. He ad­vanced to Sun­day’s final when sec­ond-seeded Rafael Nadal with­drew with an ab­dom­i­nal strain be­fore their match on Satur­day.

Djokovic, who won his fifth ti­tle at the Paris Masters, im­proved to 4-0 against Shapo­valov. All four of those wins have come this sea­son.

The 16-time Grand Slam cham­pion of­fered up praise for Shapo­valov dur­ing his on­court in­ter­view af­ter the match.

“The best things are yet to come for you,” Djokovic said, switch­ing from French to English

so Shapo­valov could un­der­stand him.

Shapo­valov en­tered the match with only one ca­reer ti­tle — a mod­est ATP 250-level tour­na­ment in Stock­holm last month — and the big-serv­ing left han­der looked tense, mak­ing three un­forced er­rors in his first ser­vice game and slip­ping quickly to 3-0 down against a com­posed Djokovic play­ing in his 50th Masters final and 111th over­all.

Af­ter botch­ing a re­turn on Djokovic’s open­ing serve of the sev­enth game he whacked his racket into the ground in frus­tra­tion. “Yeah, a lit­tle bit of a bad start but, no, I don’t think it was any nerves,” Shapo­valov said.

“I mean, I just think it was just a bit of a slow start, cou­ple misses here and there.”

Drop­ping only four points on his serve in the first set, Djokovic clinched it with another dom­i­nant serv­ing game which in­cluded two aces and con­cluded with a volleyed fore­hand win­ner at the net.

Shapo­valov was up against it right from the start of the sec­ond set, sav­ing a break point with an ace. Un­forced er­rors resur­faced in the sev­enth game and Djokovic ruth­lessly pun­ished him with a break for a 4-3 lead.

Djokovic saved his first break point of the match at 30-40 in the next game when Shapo­valov re­turned a sliced serve well wide.

Sun­day’s vic­tory gave Djokovic his 77th ca­reer ATP ti­tle, ty­ing John McEn­roe for fifth all­time.

It was also his 34th Masters 1000 ti­tles, one back of Nadal.

Shapo­valov said it was “great to hear” Djokovic com­pli­ment him dur­ing the tro­phy pre­sen­ta­tion, but ac­knowl­edged he has work to do to im­prove his game.

“It’s an un­be­liev­able week for me, but it doesn’t stop here,” he said.

“It’s back to the court, back to prac­tis­ing,” he added.

“And I want to be beat­ing guys like No­vak so I have to im­prove, get bet­ter, find a way to re­turn bet­ter against his serve. And hope­fully I can do even bet­ter next year.”

MICHEL EULER THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

No­vak Djokovic and De­nis Shapo­valov, right, stand to­gether with their tro­phies af­ter the final match of the Paris Masters ten­nis tour­na­ment Sun­day. Djokovic de­feated Shapo­valov, 6-3, 6-4.

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