Two Canadians entered the Foro Italico on Thursday, but only one is still standing at the Internazionali BNL D’Italia.
While they both struggled with consistency, only Denis Shapovalov managed to advance to the third round in Rome as Milos Raonic was ousted in his second-round clash with Dusan Lajovic.
Shapovalov kicked off the day’s action on Court Centrale with a straight sets win over Spanish qualifier Pedro Martinez, but Raonic could not keep his game together later in the afternoon as he fell to Lajovic in three sets.
Shapovalov overcomes inconsistency to advance
A win is a win and that is what Shapovalov will want to focus on after his 6-4, 6-4 victory over Martinez.
It was a far from impressive performance by the Canadian who struggled to find his consistency all day. As usual Shapovalov was aggressive, but that betrayed him more often than not as he hit more than twice as many unforced errors than winners, 34 to 16.
The serve was also problematic from the recent US Open quarterfinalist. He missed seven straight first serves to open the match, although when he finally got one in it was returned into the net.
In the end, Shapovalov only managed to put 49 percent of his first serves in play. Fortunately, he was able to win 68 percent of his second serve points.
The Canadian was also bailed out by his opponent’s seven double faults. Martinez was not much better on serve, only putting 58 percent of his first serves into play and Shapovalov ate up the seconds, winning 63 percent of points when his opponent missed his first delivery.
Inconsistency was everywhere in Shapovalov’s game on Thursday and he struggled to string together runs of good games. He broke early in the first set to take a 2-1 lead, only to throw away his next service game and give the break right back.
Fortunately, the 12th seed managed to respond by acquiring another break and this time hung on to take the opening set.
The second set started disastrously for the Canadian as he was broken immediately, playing awful tennis and struggling to keep the ball in the court, and went down 0-3.
Fortunately, the early deficit seemingly served as a wake-up call as Shapovalov would rally, despite errors continuing to fly off his racquet, and win six of the next seven games to score a victory.
The Canadian will need to up his level if he hopes to reach a fourth Masters 1000 quarterfinal. He will meet Ugo Humbert, who upset seventh seed Fabio Fognini, for a spot in the last eight. Their head-to-head is tied 1-1, with Humbert winning earlier this year in Auckland, although Shapovalov won their lone meeting on clay last year in Lyon.
Raonic cannot find his range
Unlike his younger compatriot, Raonic’s inconsistency was his undoing in his second-round clash with Lajovic.
The veteran Canadian committed 42 unforced errors, 23 off his stronger forehand side including back-to-back to go down a break in the final set, while only managing 40 winners.
His normally lethal serve was off and he double-faulted 10 times, only putting 56 percent of his first serves into play and winning a mere 48 percent of his second serve points. Lajovic managed to break four times in the match.
The Serb was the more consistent of the two, hitting an even 28 winners and unforced errors. He also matched his big-serving opponent with eight aces, but otherwise had better serving numbers in every category except first serve points won, where he managed 69 percent to the Canadian’s 75.
Raonic got off to a slow start, dropping serve in the third game, but managed to reclaim the break immediately. A tiebreak was needed to decide the set and Lajovic pulled away quickly, earning a minibreak on the first point with a huge return.
The Canadian, normally comfortable in tiebreaks, looked uncharacteristically nervous and threw in a number of errors to drop the opening set.
The inconsistency, particularly on serve, was on display early in the second when Raonic got an early break, only to give it right back with three double faults in the following game.
However, despite his struggles both on serve and with his groundstrokes, the W&S Open runner-up scored another break for a 4-3 lead and this time kept it to send the match to a decider.
But winning the second failed to turn the tide in the Canadian’s direction. His inability to keep the ball in court cost him as he was broken twice in the final set, including while serving to stay in the match at 2-5, to exit the tournament.