Denis Shapovalov heard opportunity knocking. Over and over. And pretty loudly. But he also saw his U.S. Open fourth-round opponent, Pablo Carreno Busta, repeatedly barring the door.
Shapovalov, the 18-year-old Canadian who emerged from last week’s Open qualifying tournament to announce his considerable potential to the tennis world, on Sunday never got past the stage of being a dangerous threat in a straight-sets loss to Carreno Busta.
Up 5-2 in the first set and 3-0 in the third, Shapovalov lost, 7-6 (2), 7-6 (4), 7-6 (3). He was asked, naturally, if he wished that the late Jimmy Van Alen hadn’t invented the tiebreaker.
“Maybe today,” Shapovalov said.
But he was quick to confirm the obvious, that he had plenty of chances leading up to those tiebreakers, and that Carreno Busta’s steady play had done him in. The two traded long, crisp baseline rallies, with a goodly amount of variety mixed in. “He just stayed very solid,” Shapovalov said. “He stayed very tough mentally on the big points.
“You know, at the end of the day, it’s tennis. I still have a lot of things to learn.”
Meanwhile, Carreno Busta, a 26-year-old Spaniard, carries on as the highest seed — at No. 12 — in the lower half of the Open draw, which was light on big names with big resumes from the beginning.
Only three of the 64 players who started the tournament in that half ever had been to a Grand Slam final — 2014 Open champ and 2017 Wimbledon runner-up Marin Cilic, 2008 runner-up Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and 2013 French runner-up David Ferrer. All have been upset, with Shapovalov personally sending Tsonga packing in the second round.
Carreno Busta, meanwhile, has played only qualifiers through four rounds — 308th-ranked Evan King of Chicago, No. 225 Cameron Norrie of Great Britain and No. 115 Nicolas Mahut of France before Shapovalov, ranked 69th. Carreno Busta has taken full advantage, winning all 12 sets, and his attitude about the bracket is that the makeup is “anecdotic.”
“They’re all good players,” he said, acknowledging that “maybe I never heard of until last month.
“In Montreal I watch him playing against Rafa, and he made unbelievable match. (Shapovalov won.) And in this tournament, he beat Tsonga. So maybe he is on fire, no? He’s very young, so in the future, he will be one of the best.”
Carreno Busta lately has been warming up to his own impressive possibilities. He never had been past the third round in his previous 15 majors under his run to this year’s French Open quarterfinals, when he was forced to retire with an abdominal injury in the second set against eventual champ Nadal. Among Carreno Busta’s victims in Paris were top 15 players Grigor Dimitrov and Milos Raonic.
As for Shapovalov, “My favorite memory for 10 days?” he said. “Honestly, I think it was the sound, the roar of the crowd [after Sunday’s match] when I put my bags down and went out to applaud them.
“Honestly, it was so much fun to be part of that atmosphere and that match and this whole two weeks. I have a lot of work to do. But the biggest lesson is that I’m able to compete with these guys.”
He seemed to hear destiny calling.
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