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French Open: Shapovalov Survives Marathon Vs. Nakashima

May 29th 2023

Shapovalov survives four-hour, five-set marathon vs Nakashima in French Open first round 

Canadian outlasts American 6-4, 7-5, 4-6, 3-6, 6-3 to reach French Open 2nd round

It wasn’t always high quality, but it most certainly was dramatic. Denis Shapovalov, a former top-ten player took on a future top-ten contender on day two at Roland Garros. Shapovalov from Canada, reached a career high of #10 in the fall of 2020 but has fallen out of the top thirty at #32

The twenty-four-year-old southpaw with one career title has notable wins over former world #1s and grand slam champions Rafa Nadal, Daniil Medvedev, and Andy Murray. Shapovalov was looking for redemption; with a win/loss record this season below 500 (7-9), he has yet to progress beyond the second round in Paris.

Brandon Nakashima from the United States is the reigning Next Gen ATP Finals champion and just two spots below his career-high rank of #43. Three years younger than his opponent, the San Diego native secured his first and only tour-level title to date last September at the San Diego Open. 

With two losses this season to countryman Mackie McDonald and two defeats at the hands of the Spaniard and world #34 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, the Next Gen phenom also is below 500 this season (6-7). 

Nakashima reached the third-round last spring in Paris and won their only previous tour-level meeting last July at Wimbledon in four sets. The battle of the North Americans on the terre battue, opened play on Court 7.

Nakashima served first and with an inside-out backhand volley winner, held to 15 while Shapovalov hit two aces and a double fault and held to 30 to level. Nakashima made 3/5 first serves and held to 15, with a serve and volley on game point while Shapovalov with his aggressive court position, pummeled an inside-in forehand and held to 15 for 2-2.

Nakashima struck his first ace but with three unforced errors faced break point and dumped serve. The Canadian opened the sixth with his second double fault and with two additional unforced errors, gave back the break. The American made 7/8 first serves but with a netted backhand faced break point and dropped serve when his opponent ripped a forehand down the line.

Shapovalov serving with new balls, opened and closed with winners to consolidate the break at love for 5-3. Nakashima opened the ninth with an ace up the tee and held easily to 15 for 4-5. Shapovalov served for the set, but it was anything but routine. Although he struck his third ace, he donated two double faults. He reached double set point then break point but with two consecutive winners and an overcooked backhand from Nakashima, secured the set 6-4

Nakashima served first in the second and with a fantastic backhand stab volley winner, held to 30 while Shapovalov hit an incredible inside-in forehand and his fourth ace to level. The American missed 2/4 first serves but held at love for 2-1 while the Canadian missed 4/8 first serves including his 5th double fault, faced a double break point and deuce but with his fifth ace, managed to hold for 2-2.  

Nakashima did well to absorb his opponent’s pace as he held to 30 for 3-2. Shapovalov opened the sixth with a stunning inside-out, inside-in forehand combination and with three additional winners, held to 30 for 3-3.

Nakashima hit two outstanding winners including a crosscourt backhand stab volley and held at love for 4-3 while Shapovalov faced break point following his sixth double fault but with three remarkable forehand winners battled to level. 

Nakashima opened the ninth with two consecutive winners and with a third, held to 30 for 5-4 while Shapovalov struck another forehand winner and his seventh double fault yet managed to hold to 15 for 5-5

Nakashima gifted two unforced errors, faced triple break point and with another volley error, dumped serve while Shapovalov donated two forehand errors but with two groundstroke winners, sealed the set 7-5

The American served first in the third and held at love while Shapovalov missed 4/6 first serves yet managed to hold to 30 for parity. Nakashima threw in another successful serve and volley play and held to 30 for 2-1 while the Canadian after changing racquets, held easily to 15 for 2-2

Nakashima hit two additional winners and held to 15 for 3-2 while Shapovalov struck three consecutive winners to level. The young American faced break point following a mishit volley but eked out the hold with two consecutive first serves while Shapovalov unleashing winners and extracting errors, held to 30 for 4-4.

Nakashima opened the ninth with his third ace and with three additional first serves, held at love for 5-4. Shapovalov serving to stay in the set, donated two consecutive double faults and with a mishit backhand lost serve and the set. 

Shapovalov left the court following the conclusion of the third set. Nakashima opened the fourth with an overhead smash and though he faced deuce and break point, held for 1-0.

Shapovalov opened with a monster serve up the tee and with a spectacular inside-out forehand, held at love to level while the American returned the favor with a love hold for 2-1.

Shapovalov opened with an overcooked backhand and with three additional errors, faced two deuce and break point but with a massive forehand down the line off the return, managed to hold for 2-2.

Nakashima opened the fifth with his fourth ace and with a serve and volley on game point, held at love for 3-2. Shapovalov opened with two consecutive double faults yet incredulously, held to 30 to level. Nakashima gifted two unforced errors including a double fault but with two groundstroke winners, held to 30 for 4-3

It was déjà vu for the Canadian as he opened with two consecutive double faults, but this time succumbed to his mistakes and dumped serve when his opponent nailed a crosscourt backhand volley winner. Nakashima with another volley winner, snatched the set at love, forcing a deciding set.

Shapovalov called for the physio and took a medical timeout following the conclusion of the fourth set. The Canadian opened the fifth with a brilliant backhand down the line and with an incredible inside-out forehand, held at love. 

Nakashima remarkably poised for his age, while playing a deciding set against a seeded player, struggled in his opening service game. He missed 5/12 first serves including two consecutive double faults, faced three deuce and two break points yet held to level when his opponent’s pass went wide.

Shapovalov donated his fourteenth double fault to open the third but with a well-placed serve and overhead smash, held to 30 for 2-1. Nakashima, not to be upstaged by his opponent, opened the fourth with his fifth double fault! The 2022 NextGen ATP Finals champion committed two additional errors and following two break points, dumped serve with another shanked forehand. 

The former world #10 opened the fifth with an overcooked forehand but with spot serving and depth off the ground, held to 30 for 4-1 while Nakashima made 5/6 first serves and held to 30 for 2-4.

Shapovalov missed four consecutive first serves including another double fault and faced break point but held for 5-2 with four astonishing forehand winners. The American serving to stay in the match, made 4/5 first serves and held to 15, forcing his opponent to serve for the match. 

The Canadian may not always make it easy but he definitely makes it interesting. He opened the 9th with a dazzling crosscourt forehand winner and with another crushed down the line, closed out the set and match at love.  

The Canadian could probably have sealed the deal in straights but that would have been too cost-effective and boring for the packed crowd. Shapovalov is often his own worst enemy but today managed to maintain his composure and when he most needed to, produced his best tennis.  

Against a worthy opponent, he finished with six aces, 15 double faults and won 75% of first and 54% of second serve points despite a first serve percentage of fifty-six. He saved 8/11 break points while converting 4/11. He came to net 66 times, winning thirty-one points and struck fifty winners to sixty-eight unforced errors. He won five fewer points yet won two more games! 

In order to reach the third round for the first time in six attempts, he must significantly reduce the unforced errors and put more spin on the second serve. Going for broke isn’t always the best strategy but fortunately for Shapovalov, he had five sets to reevaluate and execute. 

Next up, is the twenty-two-year-old Italian, Matteo Arnaldi whom he has never played. An alternate in Milan last November at the NextGen ATP Finals following the withdrawal of Holger Rune, Arnaldi is currently #106 having broken into the top 100 at #99 earlier this month.