Playing under the bright lights of Arthur Ashe Stadium on Wednesday night was an intimidating task for Denis Shapovalov.
But as he has on several occasions already this year, the 18-year-old Canadian stayed loose under pressure and it paid off.
Shapovalov advanced into the third round of the U.S. Open after a 6-4, 6-4, 7-6 (3) upset victory over eighth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France.
“Like I said before the match, I was going in with nothing to lose,” said Shapovalov. “I was having fun on the court. There was a couple times during the match that I was just smiling, having a good time. I was enjoying the atmosphere.
“It’s a dream come true for me to play a night match on Arthur Ashe. I grew up wanting to do this.”
Shapovalov, ranked No. 69 in the world, started the match strong by breaking Tsonga’s serve on the first game of the opening set. Both players held serve for the rest of the set.
The Richmond Hill, Ont., native had a big break in the second set went Tsonga double faulted to let Shapovalov go up 4-3. He used that momentum to hold on and take a 2-0 set lead.
Shapovalov once again broke Tsonga to go up 4-3 in the third set, but the Frenchman got it back when Shapovalov was serving for the match to tie the set at 5-5.
The third set went to a tiebreak which Shapovalov dominated to win the match in just over two hours 11 minutes.
“I don’t think that win was any bit routine,” said Shapovalov. “I played unbelievable today, very high level. I don’t know why but I just managed to stay loose and go for my shots the whole match.
“I just stayed calm and just waited for my next chance and took it.”
Shapovalov, who finished the match with 28 winners, gained entry into the main draw of the final Grand Slam tournament of the season last week with three victories in qualifying.
It’s been a great run of late for Shapovalov, who became the youngest man to reach a Masters semifinal earlier this month at the Rogers Cup in Montreal. That tournament included an upset victory over world No. 1 Rafael Nadal.
“Every win that I’ve been going through, it’s been securing anyone’s doubts or even my own doubts about whether I belong with these guys, playing these high-level tournaments,” said Shapovalov, who beat Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in the first round. “This win, it’s definitely another confidence boost. It shows that Montreal wasn’t a fluke week. I mean to do it back-to-back, it’s not easy.
“I’m extremely proud of myself for how long I’ve come and it’s going to be another battle against Kyle and I’m going to do my best to take it to him but it’s going to be a difficult match.”
Shapovalov will next face Kyle Edmund of Britain.
When the duo faced each other in the Davis Cup in February, Shapovalov was defaulted and fined $7,000 for hitting a ball in anger that struck the chair umpire in the face and broke a bone under his left eye. But the Canadian rebounded in July, defeating Edmund at the Queen’s Club Championships.
Edmund defeated Steve Johnson 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 (4) earlier Wednesday to advance.
“He’s an unbelievable player,” Shapovalov said of his third round opponent. “He goes for his shots, he’s not afraid to take it to the guy.
“There’s no easy matches here. For a guy like me, every match is tough and I’m going to have to battle it out.”
It was an otherwise tough day for Canadians at the U.S. Open with both Eugenie Bouchard and Vasek Pospisil eliminated.
Bouchard of Westmount, Que., fell 7-6 (2), 6-1 to Russia’s Evgeniya Rodina. Facing double match point, Bouchard sent a backhand into the net as her record dropped to 12-17 on the season.
Bouchard, ranked 76th in the world, has failed to make it past the second round of her last eight tournaments, starting with a second-round exit at the French Open.
The 23-year-old Bouchard made 46 unforced errors, compared to 18 for Rodina.
Bouchard converted three of her four break point opportunities, but struggled to hold serve. Rodina broke Bouchard five times on nine chances.
Rodina, ranked 89th in the world, next faces fourth seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine.
In men’s action, Vancouver’s Pospisil retired from his match with Spain’s Fernando Verdasco after losing the first set 6-2.
Pospisil, who has been bothered by back pain and struggled through the opening set, met briefly with trainers during the changeover before withdrawing.