Shapovalov-Felix US Open Rematch Leads Five Matches To Watch

  • Posted: Aug 22, 2019

Shapovalov-Felix US Open Rematch Leads Five Matches To Watch

Tsitsipas & Rublev, who met in Milan last year, to battle for spot in second round

The US Open draw ceremony was held Thursday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, with one of the highlights being third seed Roger Federer getting drawn into defending champion Novak Djokovic’s half of the draw. But there are plenty of reasons to watch the action from the first match, and examines five of the first-round matches to watch.

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[18] Felix Auger-Aliassime vs. Denis Shapovalov
It was unlikely these two #NextGenATP Canadian phenoms would play each other in the first round of the US Open last year. To happen again in 2019 is insane, right? But the sensations will have to once again put aside their friendship to play for a spot in the second round at Flushing Meadows.

When they met here last season, Auger-Aliassime, No. 117 in the ATP Rankings at the time, had qualified, whereas Shapovalov was the 28th seed. Felix was forced to retire during the third set of that match due to a reoccurring heart problem. Auger-Aliassime evened their FedEx ATP Head2Head series with a straight-sets victory this year at the Mutua Madrid Open.

And this time in New York, Auger-Aliassime is the player who enters the match with the momentum. The 19-year-old cracked the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings for the first time this week, and he has won 31 of his 37 tour-level matches this year, making his first three finals in Rio de Janeiro, Lyon and Stuttgart.

“Felix is playing more of a defensive-minded game style, but with the ability to attack, too,” former Canadian great Nestor said about Auger-Aliassime’s game in Montreal. “Denis is more of the aggressive type and the shot-maker. He’s going big and hopefully he gets hot and when he gets hot, he’s a Top 5 player.”

[8] Stefanos Tsitsipas vs. Andrey Rublev
The two up-and-comers met at last year’s Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, a five-set win for Tsitsipas. But Tsitsipas, Greece’s #NextGenATP star, won’t be full of confidence ahead of their second FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting.

The No. 8 player in the ATP Rankings is on a three-match losing streak, including opening-round losses at the past two ATP Masters 1000 events in Montreal and Cincinnati, and Tsitsipas didn’t make it past the second round at last year’s US Open (l. to Medvedev).

Rublev, meanwhile, could hardly have envisioned a better North-American hard-court swing. The 21-year-old Russian, who missed three months last year (back), upset Roger Federer in straight sets at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati and is playing in the quarter-finals at this week’s Winston-Salem Open. Rublev also will be able to rely on past good memories in New York, having reached the 2017 quarter-finals (l. to Nadal), becoming the youngest US Open quarter-finalist since Andy Roddick in 2001.

[11] Fabio Fognini vs. Reilly Opelka
Can Italy’s No. 1 again dash an American hope in New York? Fognini beat American Michael Mmoh to start his 2018 US Open and will try to make it back-to-back years against the 6’11” Opelka, who recorded his best Grand Slam result at Wimbledon by making the third round (l. to Raonic).

Fognini, who made the fourth round in New York in 2015, is trying to reach his second Grand Slam quarter-final this fortnight (Roland Garros 2011), while Opelka, No. 42 in the ATP Rankings, will be going for his first win at his home Grand Slam. Fognini has proven himself one of the best baseliners in the world, cracking the Top 10 for the first time this year, but will he be able to get into enough rallies against the big-serving Opelka?

[2] Rafael Nadal vs. John Millman
Surely John Millman can’t pull off the impossible two years in a row, can he? Last year, under the lights in Arthur Ashe Stadium, the veteran Aussie shocked five-time champion Roger Federer in the fourth round to make his first Grand Slam quarter-final.

Nadal, however, will have his eyes wide open at the challenge. The three-time US Open champion (2010, 2013, 2017) and 2018 semi-finalist (ret. vs. Del Potro) has never lost in the first round in Flushing and is going for his 19th Grand Slam title this fortnight.

[6] Alexander Zverev vs. Radu Albot
On paper, this may look like a mismatch in Zverev’s favour. The reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion has won 11 ATP Tour titles and climbed as high as World No. 3, while Albot claimed his maiden tour-level trophy this year in Delray Beach and is currently No. 40 in the ATP Rankings.

But Albot is a tough competitor who will make Zverev play a lot of balls, and will take full advantage of any opportunities in rallies to take the ball early if Zverev remains well behind the baseline.

The German is in 10th place in the ATP Race To London, but he is coming off of an opening-match exit in Cincinnati. Now he will be made to work hard against Albot, who seeks his first Top 10 win. The pair also practised together Wednesday at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

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