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UPDATE 1-Tennis-Shapovalov survives Sinner in epic battle to advance in Melbourne

Mon 8th February, 2021 3:13pm
(Adds fresh quotes, details)
    MELBOURNE, Feb 8 (Reuters) - Canadian 11th seed Denis
Shapovalov outlasted Italian Jannik Sinner 3-6 6-3 6-2 4-6 6-4
in an enthralling battle of 'Next Gen' stars on Monday to move
into the second round of the Australian Open.
    In the final clash on Margaret Court Arena on the opening
day of the Grand Slam, the 21-year-old Shapovalov and Sinner,
19, put on a masterclass of clean hitting and athleticism in a
first career meeting between them.
    "Today was just incredible tennis from both of us,"
Shapovalov told reporters. 
    "Honestly, I think Jannik is super talented. He's such an
amazing player, he's a great guy, great worker. I'm sure he's
going to be a very, very tough opponent in the future... I'm a
really big fan of his game and how he is."
    In an evenly-contested match with hardly anything to choose
between the two youngsters, Sinner, who on Sunday became the
youngest to win two ATP titles since Novak Djokovic in 2006,
made a fast start to jump to a 3-0 lead before taking the set.
    Against Sinner's immaculate hitting and robust court
coverage, Shapovalov needed to raise his game and the world
number 12 managed to find an extra gear and some more power
behind his shots to take the next two sets.
    Having played both singles and doubles almost everyday in
the tuneup event the past week, Sinner's legs seemed to have run
out of juice when he fell back 3-1 in the fourth set.
    But the 32nd-ranked Italian found the energy to stage a
fightback and level the contest at 2-2.
    Before the deciding set, Shapovalov had a lengthy argument
with the chair umpire after being denied a toilet break. He then
received some medical attention for a shoulder niggle and
returned to the court to break Sinner in the opening game.
    Sinner, who used his 14-day isolation in Adelaide ahead of
the Grand Slam as Rafa Nadal's hitting partner, spent whatever
he had in his tank and had two opportunities to get the break
back in the decider but failed to convert them.
    "There's not that much difference between him and me,"
Sinner said, choosing his sessions against the 20-times Grand
Slam singles winner as the highlight of his trip to Australia.
    "He played better today during certain points, he deserved
to win. It's mentally tough losing in the fifth, but it's going
to be a lesson, as well."
    After almost four hours, Shapovalov sealed the contest at
almost 1 am in the morning with a forehand winner down the line
on his second match point to set up a second-round meeting
against Australian Bernard Tomic.
    "Matches like this is so much fun for me to play, this is
why I play the sport," Shapovalov said in his on-court
    "Win or lose today, it's one of the matches that I'm going
to remember in my career just because ... the moment, the
quality of tennis today, it was just so much fun to be out

 (Reporting by Sudipto Ganguly in Mumbai; editing by Pritha
Sarkar and Christian Radnedge)
 ((; +91 22 6841 4383;
Twitter: @Sudipto_Reuters;))
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