After US Open run, Shapovalov piling up more wins in Rome

Canada's Denis Shapovalov returns the ball to Spain's Pedro Martinez during their Italian Open tennis tournament in Rome, on Sept. 17, 2020. (Alfredo Falcone/LaPresse via AP)
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Updated 17 September 2020

After US Open run, Shapovalov piling up more wins in Rome

  • The Canadian star won his opening singles match in Rome in straight sets, over Argentine clay-courter Guido Pella
  • He will continue playing singles and doubles in the forthcoming French Open

ROME: From singles to doubles, hard courts to clay courts, North America to Europe, Denis Shapovalov just keeps playing — and, for the most part, winning.

After spending more than 22 hours on court over the previous two weeks at the US Open, where he reached the quarterfinals in both singles and doubles, Shapovalov is still going strong after crossing the Atlantic.

The Canadian recovered from an early break in the second set to beat Spanish qualifier Pedro Martinez 6-4, 6-4 Thursday and reach the third round of the Italian Open.

A few hours later, “Shapo” was back on court for doubles and teamed with Rohan Bopanna to knock out the top-seeded duo of Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.

“Luckily, I’m still 21 years old,” Shapovalov said. “It’s been a lot of tennis. For sure I’m feeling it physically, no question about it. But I’m getting good treatment every day. I’m just pushing through it.

“It’s very tough, especially after the Grand Slam. Your body just kind of naturally wants to relax. ... But I’m really happy with the way I have been able to maintain my level and maintain physically.”

Shapovalov will continue playing singles and doubles at the French Open, which starts in 10 days.

Shapovalov also won his opening singles match in Rome in straight sets, over Argentine clay-courter Guido Pella.

“I’m a hard-court player, so it’s definitely not easy matchups for me,” Shapovalov said. “I’m really happy to be through and really happy with the way my game has transitioned from the hard courts to the clay courts.”

Known for his attacking game and stylish shot-making, the 14th-ranked Shapovalov worked on adding more patience to his repertoire with new coach Mikhail Youzhny during the five-month break for the coronavirus pandemic.

“Obviously I like to pull the trigger and go for my shots as early as possible,” Shapovalov said. “We had a lot of time to really build up the game.”

Shapovalov was the first player to reach the quarterfinals in both singles and doubles at the US Open since Youzhny achieved the feat 14 years earlier.

“He’s really trying to make me more of an all-rounded and smarter player,” Shapovalov said of his coach.

Also at the Foro Italico, which is devoid of fans this year because of the pandemic, Dusan Lajovic defeated Milos Raonic 7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-2 and will next face nine-time Rome champion Rafael Nadal.

In the women’s tournament, ninth-seeded Garbiñe Muguruza eliminated 16-year-old Coco Gauff 7-6 (3), 3-6, 6-3 in an error-strewn match that included 24 double-faults — nine from Muguruza and a whopping 15 from Gauff, who was playing her first pro tournament on clay.

Two-time Grand Slam champion Svetlana Kuznetsova rallied past 14th-seeded Anett Kontaveit 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 and will next face two-time Rome champion Elina Svitolina, last year’s French Open runner-up Markéta Vondroušová beat Dutch qualifier Arantxa Rus 6-3, 6-3, and Yulia Putintseva ousted eighth-seeded Petra Martic 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-4.


Lower expectations for Barcelona entering Champions League

Updated 20 October 2020

Lower expectations for Barcelona entering Champions League

  • Barca have not won since 2015, but since then have never embarked on a new campaign amid so much disarray

MADRID: Despite managing to hang onto Lionel Messi, Barcelona begin its Champions League campaign with reduced expectations after one of their worst seasons in years.
The Catalan club appears to lack its confidence from previous seasons following an embarrassing elimination to Bayern Munich and a troubled off-season in which it nearly lost its talisman.

“Knowing what happened recently, we are not the top favorite,” coach Ronald Koeman said on Monday ahead of the team's debut in this season's competition against Hungarian club Ferencvaros. “But we are a team that can go far.”

Koeman arrived to put Barcelona back on track shortly after the 8-2 collapse against Bayern Munich in the quarterfinals of the Champions League, which capped their first season without a title since 2007-08.

“Barcelona always plays to win titles, in the league and in Europe, but there are other strong teams,” Koeman said.

Barcelona have not  won the Champions League since 2015, but since then they had never embarked on a new campaign in the competition amid so much disarray.

The club avoided losing Messi after he said he wanted to leave, but it continued to endure political turmoil and even financial difficulties. President Josep Bartomeu is facing a censure motion that could force him to leave his post before the end of the year.

Koeman was given the task of revamping the first team, and he quickly got rid of veterans such as Luis Suarez and Ivan Rakitic, but the club failed to bring in any of the players he wanted in the transfer window.

Koeman said Messi is fine despite scoring just once so far this season.

“Maybe his performance could be better, but I see him happy,” Koeman said. “I see him training well and focused. I have nothing to complain about him in that sense.”

He said “a bit of bad luck” has played a role in keeping the Argentina star from scoring more goals so far. Koeman also downplayed criticism of Antoine Griezmann for his recent poor performances, though he admitted that “everyone in the attack” can improve.

Barcelona opened the Spanish league with two convincing wins under Koeman, but then it drew 1-1 with Sevilla at home and lost 1-0 at Getafe on Saturday.

Hungarian champions Ferencvaros return to the Champions League for the first time since 1995. They needed to get through four qualifying rounds to reach the group stage.

The other Group G teams are Juventus and Dynamo Kyiv.

“We want to start with the right foot,” Koeman said. “We want to win the match and gain tranquility.”