J.L. Struff (GER) b. D. Shapovalov (CAN) 6-3 4-6 7-6(2) – 2h05m
A game with a thousand faces, especially in the final, cool in the end and Struff coolly closing out the decisive tie break.
After a hangover from Italy’s win, Canada and Germany take on a packed stadium. A matchup will emerge from this clash that we are keen on as we face Italy in the semi-finals.
A match that seems marked on paper as world number 152 and number 18 face each other. But to limit ourselves to this statistic would be misleading: first, we must consider that Struff is always a dangerous player on fast surfaces, because of his forehand and his serve; Secondly, if we go to look at H2H, the German has a positive record against the Canadian with 5 wins and 3 losses. The last match between the two took place at the ATP Cup in Australia this year: although the victory went to the Canadian, it was a hard-fought match that ended in the third set.
Shapovalov failed to get out of the opening blocks well in the first set, giving his opponent a cold break at the first opportunity. For the Canadian, the tension may be a bit high as he starts as the favourite, and for Canada it is necessary to avoid playing doubles matches, while Germany can field a competitive doubles. As the set continued, the Canadian was yet to find the crux of the matter, actually getting a break back for the final 6-3 in 31 minutes of play.
And so we move to the second part, in which the Canadian gradually begins to slow down the dangerous airparking and returns to the water. Shapovalov’s rounds will no longer be played as the pressure begins to shift onto the mighty German’s shoulders. And so we come to the seventh game, in which Shapovalov finally comes into his own and begins to show flashes of his best tennis. Germany’s defense is tough, but eventually Struff bows out and drops serve for the first time. Now the winners – even backwards – Shapovalov begin to invade and the accelerations burn more and more. However, the German is better at staying in the slipstream and forcing Shabo to serve for the set. But Denis did not flinch, and in fact, with a victory, he finished the exercise and sent the fight to the third set.
In the second set, the Canadian developed first by consolidating his serve rounds (no break points allowed and winning over 90% of points in the first set; and a reduction in double faults to 5 in the first set) and then rediscovering those accelerations that are the trademark of his tennis.
The third set saw Struff start serving and continue to hammer Shapovalo’s back without flinching. For Germany, it was a question of trying to maintain operational command with her right.
As in the fourth game, for his part the Canadian is back to scintillating on his serve, where with two double faults he goes looking for trouble and brings Struff back into the game. On an early tip from Shapo, Struff raises himself to break point, which the Canadian has to defend with his second: good attack but then misjudged at the net by the Tel Aviv native; Germany’s beaten passer is on the field, therefore breaking Germany.
Shapovalov is an emotional bonfire at this point, complete with fraud ruined by another avoidable mistake. Bad omens for the Canadian, who needs to find his rhythm quickly, and expect some defeats that Struff certainly won’t come with. Struff is flying at 5-2 with 78% from the field and 100% conversions in this game situation.
This brings us to the clash, 5-3 and service strife. Here begins another game, completely insane, in which logic is completely set aside.
Early in the game, the German was blamed for letting his serve slip for a few seconds and allowing Shapovlov to go 30-30. At this point Denis decides it’s finally time to grab a point on the first serve and goes to break point. But you know, the Canadian is genius and irresponsible and misses an impossible answer in a split second. Struff then, undaunted, abandoned a tactical plan of baseline pressure that had paid off so well up to that point, and threw himself into the net in a way not seen repeatedly past the Canadian since the Edberg days. Waste it all once you reach a breakpoint. In short, luck is also in the way to help the Canadian, as the break does not come with good luck. Another serve and volley from Struff and Shapovalo hits back into the court. It seems to say that he who hurts with a mark will perish with a mark: a ball that isn’t even very clean at Struff’s gap in the third set.
Should everyone be back to normal? Of course not, Struff regains his composure in the next game and he dominates Shapovalo to earn a second match point, albeit with an excellent serve. The chance slipped away and the Canadian broke back for 5-5. After all these twists and turns, the match finally comes to an end and everything is played out in a tie break.
In a decisive game, there is no story. The German is very aggressive and takes it 5-2 in a wave of double minibreaks to finish with authority at 7 points 2.
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