The Young Guns – Under Pressure at the US Open

With five out of the top 11 ranked players not playing in the US Open this year due to injuries (Milos Raonic (11), Kei Nishikori (10), Novak Djokovic (5), Stan Wawrinka (4), and Andy Murray (2), this leaves the window wide open for one of the young guns, “next gen” players, to make their move. In week one, we have seen some pretty impressive play, but as we sneak into week two, will they be able to hang with the big boys? Only time will tell. On this middle Sunday, there are only two “next gen” players left, Andrey Rublev (currently ranked 53) and Denis Shapovalov (currently ranked 69).

This morning on Arthur Ashe Stadium, Denis Shapovalov gave it his best effort. His opponent was Pablo Carreno Busta. You may be thinking “Who?” But, if you followed any of my clay court coverage, you will remember that he is a formidable clay court player and knows how to win.

Before we even get into Denis and his match, I just want to say that Cliff Drysdale and John McEnroe covering the main match on Arthur Ashe Stadium in the morning is a perfect combination! John is a little more subdued in the morning and Cliff is a good counterpoint to John’s commentary. They don’t talk too much during points, they didn’t favor one player over the other, and all in all, it was a very pleasant experience.

Now onto the match. Denis Shapovalov made a splash earlier this year and not in a good way. You may recall reading in the news of a young kid getting frustrated during a Davis Cup match and hitting a ball into the stands out of frustration. But instead of it going into the stands, it hit the chair umpire smack in the eye. It was hit so hard, the man had to have surgery. Well, that was Denis. Since then he has matured and improved and has been climbing up the rankings.

Denis has style and some are comparing him to a young Andre Agassi. I see him more as a Leyton Hewitt throwback. His “signature style” is his long blonde hair and his oversized cap wore backwards. He’s a lefty with a flexible and powerful one-handed backhand, and a pretty solid 1-2-punch (serve, volley).

The match went three sets, each set ending in a tiebreak. Pablo Carreno Busta won every set 7-6, 7-6, 7-6. If I was Denis’s coach, I would work on the following:

  • Patience. Don’t try to rush the point (too many sloppy errors at the net).
  • Focus. You have got to stay in it from first ball to last.
  • Overhead shots at the net. Too many got dumped straight into the net. (see Patience, above)

I was not surprised Pablo Carreno Busta won this match. I was hoping for it to go to at least four sets, but it didn’t. Even though Denis Shapovalov didn’t win, I see great things for him in the future, so I guess I’m going to have to practice saying his name! Shapo-valov. That’s how he’s told us to pronounce it! The future of tennis continues to shine brightly!

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