Canadian young gun, Denis Shapovalov seeks back-to-back wins for the first time this season when he faces Kazakhstan's Alexander Bublik in the quarter finals of the Open 13 Provence in Marseille on Friday.
Shapovalov vs Bublik is live from Marseille on Friday, 21 February from 3:00pm local time/ 2:00pm GMT
Shapovalov earned his quarter final berth with victory over Marin Cilic on Thursday, snapping a four-match losing streak in the process.
After an impressive finish to 2019, winning a maiden career title in Stockholm in October, and backing it up with a run to a maiden Masters 1000 final at the Paris Masters, big things were expected of Shapovalov this year, but the Canadian has struggled to get going so far.
Before Marseille, he had a 3-6 win-loss record for the year, with two of his three wins coming at the ATP Cup. Shapovalov won two of his four singles matches at the ATP Cup, helping Canada reach the quarter finals, and followed that with victory over compatriot, Vasek Pospisil in his opening match in Auckland. However, he failed to win any of his next four matches, suffering opening round exits at the Australian Open, Montpellier and Rotterdam.
Shapovalov finally got back to winning ways on Thursday, beating Cilic 6-4 4-6 6-2. Firing down 17 aces and winning 76% of points on his first serve, the Canadian generally served very well against Cilic, while he responded superbly to getting broken at the end of the second set, breaking twice in the final set to run away with the match and improve to 2-1 against Cilic.
“I knew going into it that Marin was going to be a tough opponent as we’d had two close matches before,” said Shapovalov.
“Today was really good tennis and I felt comfortable on the court. My game has been there the past five or six months and I hope to show it more this week.”
Next up for Shapovalov is Alexander Bublik, who is into his first quarter final of the season. The 22-year-old Bublik has already taken down two quality opponents this week, beating Marton Fucsovics 6-4 7-5 in the first round before battling past Benoit Paire 3-6 6-4 6-4 in the second round.
The Kazakh got off to a very slow start against Paire, dropping his serve twice in the opening set, but he tidied up his game impressively after, offering just one more break point (which he saved) in the remainder of the match. He turned the match sharply in his favour towards the end of the second set, winning five straight games from 3-4 to take the set and open up a 2-0 lead in the decider. Bublik controlled the rest of the match to claim the win and secure consecutive victories for the first time this season.
He had suffered second round loses in Doha, Adelaide, Montpellier and Rotterdam, and crashed to a first round defeat to Jordan Thompson at the Australian Open.
Bublik broke into the top-100 for the first time in his career last season, rising as high as 48th in October. His most notable results were runner-up finishes in Newport and Chengdu (lost to John Isner and Pablo Carreno Busta respectively), while he also made the third round at the US Open. There was nothing else of note on the main tour, but he did enjoy a few good weeks on the Challenger Tour, winning titles in Budapest, Pau and Monterrey.
The enigmatic world No. 55 takes Shapovalov for the first time in Marseille on Friday, with both men seeking their first semi-final of the season. Shapovalov and Bublik are very talented young players, but they can also struggle to maintain their level through the course of a match. This looks like one that could ebb and flow in both directions- with the victor being the player that manages to stay more consistent, especially on the big points.