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Denis Shapovalov triumphed in the first pro-level meeting between two of Canada’s top young players, beating Felix Auger-Aliassime 7-5, 6-3 at the at the $75,000 Drummondville National Bank Challenger which is being held until March 19 at the René-Verrier indoor tennis club in Drummondville.
In the first set, the Canadian players traded early break points before settling down. Up 6-5, Shapovalov had two set points with Auger-Aliassime serving, but hit the ball long, which ended back-to-back rallies and let his opponent back in the game. On the next set point, it was the Montrealer’s turn to be betrayed by the baseline, firing long as Shapovalov wrapped up the opening frame 7-5.
Auger-Aliassime looked to bounce right back in the second set and had Shapovalov on the run. However, the older of the two young sensations maintained his composure and served his way out of trouble. As they had in the first set, the players again traded one break point each until the end, where Shapovalov once more edged ahead, breaking Auger-Aliassime before serving out the set and match, 7-5, 6-3.
Despite the loss, Auger-Aliassime had nothing but kind words for his opponent. “We both started the match a little nervous, me especially, but playing against a great player like Denis requires focus. He was solid from the start to the end. He is a great player and I wish him luck for tomorrow’s final.”
The semi-final victory for Shapovalov over his good friend lands him in a final for the second time this month. On March 5, Shapovalov won the Gatineau Futures beating Gleb Sakharov of France.
After his win on Saturday afternoon, Shapovalov was candid about the match against his friend. “It was a little bit difficult playing a good buddy of mine, of course, but I treated it as if it wasn’t Felix on the other side. I think I did a good job of that and we both played some incredible tennis today.”
It will be Shapovalov’s first ATP Challenger final on Sunday, where he will be facing Belgium’s Ruben Bemelmans. The Belgian dispatched John Patrick Smith of Australia 6-4, 6-1 in Saturday’s first semifinal in Drummondville. Bemelmans is seeded fourth in the tournament while Shapovalov is unseeded.
Saturday also featured the doubles final, which opposed the tournament’s first seeds Sam Groth (Australia) and Adil Shamasdin (Canada) against the second seeds Matt Reid (Australia) and John-Patrick Smith (Australia). The top seeds took home the title, with a 6-3, 2-6, 10-8 victory over their opponents. This was Shamasdin’s third consecutive doubles title at a Challenger event.
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