At Wimbledon, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov Stir a Nation

At Wimbledon, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov Stir a Nation
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At Wimbledon, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov Stir a Nation

At Wimbledon, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov Stir a Nation

WIMBLEDON, England – As the Montreal Canadiens, Canada’s Stanley Cup hockey hope, were eliminated across the ocean, compatriots Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime reached their first quarterfinal. final at Wimbledon a few hours apart on Monday afternoon.

Shapovalov, who won the Wimbledon junior title in 2016, has had two of his best matches in the men’s draw through the middle stages of that tournament. He used the same word to describe his victory in the fourth round, except for a few late swings, as he had used after the third round: clear.

“I played really, really flawlessly,” said 10th seed Shapovalov on Monday after a 6-1, 6-3, 7-5 win over eighth seed Roberto Bautista Agut on the short n ° 3. “Super happy with me. “

In the third round, Shapovalov used his Center Court debut to demolish local hero Andy Murray, 6-4, 6-2, 6-2, a victory so decisive it left a stunned Murray to question viability of her career.

“Beating him in straight sets in a tournament like this makes me level up compared to Andy’s game,” Shapovalov said of his victory over Bautista Agut, in which he hit 52 winners against 14 for Bautista. Agut. happy to feel like I’m improving with every game. Honestly, it was really, really fun there.

The fun continued for Canada a few hours later on court no.1, Auger-Aliassime, 16th seed, hanging on for a 6-4, 7-6 (6), 3-6, 3-6, 6-4 against fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev.

Auger-Aliassime had also been an announced junior with high expectations, winning the 2016 US Open junior two months after Shapovalov’s triumph at Wimbledon.

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After 4 hours 2 minutes of their reverse fight, Auger-Aliassime concluded what he called “surely the best win of my life so far” with an aerial smash on the match point, falling to his knees of relief as he continued firing.

“A great day for us Canadians and I hope it continues,” said Auger-Aliassime.

As Canada soared, its neighbor to the south suffered a surprisingly early sunset at Wimbledon. The United States started with 33 singles players, but Coco Gauff, Madison Keys and Sebastian Korda all lost fourth round games on Monday, meaning that for the first time since 2014, no American has reached the quarterfinals. Wimbledon Final.

The 2014 edition of the tournament was also a record year for Canada – Eugénie Bouchard reached the final and Milos Raonic reached the semi-finals.

However, Canadian tennis has had an uneven path to success. Bouchard and Raonic both missed this tournament due to injuries. Fifth seed Bianca Andreescu, Canada’s only Grand Slam singles champion, at the 2019 US Open, lost in the first round here.

But Shapovalov, 22, and Auger-Aliassime, 20, have lived up to expectations that have preceded the two for years.

Even with their recognized potential, there were reasons for pessimism for the two at Wimbledon. Shapovalov had missed the French Open with a shoulder problem, and Auger-Aliassime lost in the ATP tournament final in Stuttgart, Germany last month, lowering his record in the final to 0-8.

Thanks to wild swing changes against Zverev on Monday, Auger-Aliassime folded but didn’t break. “This game really had it all,” he said. “I had to dig deep physically and mentally. Of course, that makes it even sweeter.

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“It’s a dream come true, it’s amazing,” he said. “I’m a normal guy from Montreal, Canada, and here I am.”

Although the two have been longtime friends, Shapovalov takes a tougher view and finds his motivation in the rebuffs he felt from the tennis system in Canada as a young player.

“I think proving people wrong is what made me who I am today,” Shapovalov said. “I was a kid who grew up without the help of a foundation, alone with my parents literally spending every dollar they made from work in my career. Always having to prove myself, not always being good enough, not being chosen in teams and places – that has always been that for me.

This sensibility informed Shapovalov’s off-field passion – his rap career. Though he employs hip-hop tropes about expensive cars and champagne drinking, Shapovalov’s lyrics also take an antagonistic approach to his perceived detractors.

“They all left me on the ground, they didn’t see what I was worth; now I’m in the clouds, don’t belong to this earth, “he rapped in a recent song,” Broken. “

Shapovalov admitted that this motivation, drawn from slights by commentators or on social media, was a “constant theme” for him.

“This is how I continue to inspire myself or keep moving forward,” he said. “Of course I’m not a hate person at all – I don’t think I hold a grudge – but that motivates me in terms of the athletic side of me, how I am on the pitch. Of course, it’s always something I come back to just for inspiration.

On Wednesday, Auger-Aliassime will face seventh seed Matteo Berrettini, a close friend with whom he recently witnessed Italy’s victory over Belgium at the European Football Championships.

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While he mentioned Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer, who both advanced to the quarter-finals with straight set wins, as clear favorites, Auger-Aliassime acknowledged that the withdrawals of top five Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem “can open a draw. a bit for some players.

“As players on the tour you try to take every chance you can get,” he said. “Of course you don’t always do it, but you fight for it. It’s good to see new faces in the quarterfinals. At least I’m happy to be a part of it.

Shapovalov will make his first quarter-final at Wimbledon as a favorite against Russian 25th seed Karen Khachanov, who won Monday’s craziest match.

After four fairly standard sets of tennis between two heavy hitters, Khachanov’s fifth set against Sebastian Korda turned into a battle of frayed nerves, the two combining to break serve 13 times in Khachanov’s fifth set 3-6. , 6-4, 6 -3, 5-7, 10-8 win. According to IBM, the 13 breaks in a set were a record in men’s singles at Wimbledon.

“At least we made a record,” Khachanov said with a sheepish smile. “It’s not common, but it’s the way it is with the nerves.”

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