Updated1/9/2022 7:57:00 AM
Pablo Carreno Busta has proven a thorn in Denis Shapovalov’s side, but the Canadian got his revenge on Sunday in Sydney to put his country within one win of the ATP Cup title.
Shapovalov defeated Carreno Busta 6-4, 6-3 to give Canada a 1-0 edge against Spain. If Felix Auger-Aliassime defeats Roberto Bautista Agut, the Canadians will lift the trophy inside Ken Rosewall Arena.
"It’s a huge win, but we haven’t finished the job. We just have to keep going," Shapovalov said. "Hopefully Felix can pull through. If not, we have a good chance in the doubles. But full faith in Felix. He’s an amazing player and I think we have a good chance."
Carreno Busta entered the No. 2 singles showdown with a 4-1 ATP Head2Head lead against his 22-year-old opponent. Two of the Canadian’s losses had come in the fourth round or later at the US Open.
But Shapovalov shone brightly on the big stage at Sydney Olympic Park, where he used his high-flying game to great effect over one hour and 39 minutes. The dynamic lefty saved eight of the nine break points he faced to triumph.
The first game of the match, played on Shapovalov’s serve, proved critical. There were eight deuces, with Carreno Busta earning five chances to break straight away. Given the pair’s past results, that could have swayed the match in the Spaniard’s favour.
But instead, the Canadian showed he was ready for a battle. Shapovalov went for his shots throughout and controlled play, moving Carreno Busta around the court at will. Often in their rivalry, Carreno Busta’s consistency has proven difficult to deal with. But Shapovalov did not let slip his level for an extended period of time.
"[I had] a little bit of nerves going out. Obviously I’ve got a tough record against Carreno Busta, so I knew it was going to be a tough match," Shapovalov said. "[I was] just mishitting a little bit at the beginning [given] the moment and everything, but just tried to buckle down, do the best I can to win that game and get into the match. I felt much more comfortable after that first hold."
Carreno Busta, down a set and a break in the second set, broke back for 3-4 with solid play, letting loose a massive “Vamos!”, sensing an opportunity. But Shapovalov pummeled a forehand winner in the next game to retake the break before serving out his victory.
"It was kind of expected that he was going to put up a fight and come up with some big points. It happens a lot in tennis," Shapovalov said. "When you start to break away, the other guy relaxes and starts to free up a little bit and make a little bit more shots and vice versa for you. You start to tighten up a little bit.”
Auger-Aliassime holds a 2-1 series advantage against Bautista Agut. Their most recent meeting came in the third round of last year’s US Open, where Felix was victorious in five sets.