NEW YORK — The situation looked bleak for Denis Shapovalov when his U.S. Open opponent, Taylor Fritz, stepped up to serve for the match while leading 5-3 in the fourth set.
Fritz’s serve is his strength — he’d hit one at 147 mph earlier Saturday — and it looked as if this third-rounder between two young top-20 seeds might be all but over.
Except it wasn’t. Shapovalov broke Fritz there and then got on a real roll en route to a 3-6, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (5), 6-2 victory across nearly 3 1/2 hours that put the 21-year-old Canadian back in the fourth round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time since he did it in New York in 2017.
“He was in control,” Shapovalov said. “Saw him get a little bit tight.”
Fritz, a 22-year-old from the U.S., admitted as much.
“I played great and I put in all the work, everything I had to do, and I had it — and I just choked it.”
Five years ago, they were both playing in the junior competition at Flushing Meadows and left with hardware: Fritz won the singles title, Shapovalov the doubles title.
Now here they were in the main event, Shapovalov seeded 12th, Fritz 19th, putting on an entertaining mix of flashy shotmaking and big serves.
“He was playing incredible today. We both deserved to win,” said Shapovalov, a lefty who wears a baseball hat backward. “I got a little bit lucky.”
Shapovalov actually wound up with more aces, 22-18, as Fritz faded, delivering only one in the final set.
It was quickly 3-0 in the fifth for Shapovalov; Fritz said later he dealt with a tweaked lower back and some soreness in his feet.
“I definitely didn’t want to go into the fifth and kind of just be like, ‘Oh, I blew it, that’s it,’” said Fritz, who bowed his head as he walked to the net, his record now 0-4 in third-round matches at Grand Slam tournaments. “I really tried as hard as I could in the fifth to regroup, but he kind of got on top of me early.”
Shapovalov moves on to a match Sunday against No. 7 David Goffin with a quarterfinal berth at stake.
Not making things easy on himself so far, Shapovalov already has played 13 of a possible 15 sets so far, going four each in the first two rounds before this lengthy one.
The again, he’s just 21. And, as he noted, there is not a lot of wear on anyone’s body because of the more than five months the pro tennis tours were suspended because of the pandemic.
“We’ve never had so much of a break,” Shapovalov said, “so the body overall feels pretty fresh.”
Adrian Mannarino was preparing to head on court to play in the U.S. Open’s third round when, he explained later, he got word that the state of New York wanted to get involved in whether the 32nd-seeded Frenchman should be allowed to compete.
That’s because Mannarino was one of seven players under extra restrictions during the tournament after contact tracing determined they potentially could have been exposed to COVID-19 by Benoit Paire, the only entrant to test positive.
The city had given the OK for those seven to stay in the draw, Mannarino said, but now the state government was interested in the matter. So the start of the match was delayed and Mannarino — and his opponent, No. 5 Alexander Zverev — awaited a decision.
“It was a weird situation for me. I didn’t know what to think,” Mannarino said. “I was just laying on the sofa, still trying to be focused, just in case I would go on court.”
Eventually he did, heading to the court about 2 1/2 hours later than originally planned, but a groin injury hampered him during a 6-7 (4), 6-4, 6-2, 6-2 loss to Zverev in Louis Armstrong Stadium.
“I was told that there is very little chance that we were going to play. … I was kind of waiting around and seeing,” Zverev said. “I’m happy that he was able to play, but in the beginning, I was a little bit cold.”
Even though Mannarino’s tournament is done, he can’t head home. He said he was told he must stay in his New York hotel room under quarantine for at least another week.
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Howard Fendrich, The Associated Press