PARIS — Canada's Denis Shapovlaov has advanced to the third round at the French Open for the first time with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over Italy's Matteo Arnaldi.
To go any further, he'll need to get past world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz.
"It's going to be a challenge," Shapovalov said of his upcoming match. "It's going to be a tough battle.
"Obviously (Alcaraz is) a great player everywhere, but especially on clay courts. Three out of five (sets) is not going to be easy against him but I'm looking forward to it."
Whether or not Shapovalov's run goes any deeper at Roland Garros, the 24-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., believes his game is back on track after missing most of the clay season with a knee injury.
"Coming in I really didn't know what to expect. I was barely playing any tennis," he said. "And here I am, making my best result at the French Open."
Shapovalov wrapped up Wednesday's win over Arnaldi with his fifth break of the match. He set up match point with a powerful service return down the middle that Arnaldi couldn't handle cleanly, then won when the Italian hit the ball well out of bounds for his 41st unforced error.
Later Wednesday, Leylah Fernandez of Laval, Que., was defeated 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 by Denmark's Clara Tauson in a women's second-round match.
Shapovalov, the men's No. 26 seed, had a less strenuous outing against Arnaldi compared to his marathon session with Brandon Nakashima in the first round.
Shapovalov lost serve just once on the only break point he faced Wednesday while scoring five breaks on 16 chances in a match that lasted two hours 55 minutes.
That set up Shapovalov's first career meeting with Alcaraz, who beat Japan's Taro Daniel 6-1, 3-6, 6-1, 6-2.
While Alcaraz and Shapovalov have not crossed paths — Shapovalov was not on Canada's 2022 Davis Cup champion squad for the finals group stage, when the Canadians posted a 2-1 upset over an Alcaraz-led Spanish side — the top seed said he knows the Canadian by reputation.
"Everybody knows the level of Shapovalov," Alcaraz said after his win over Daniel. "He's a really dangerous player. He has great shots, and I think this is going to be a really difficult match."
Fernandez lost her bid to join Shapovalov to a calm and confident Tauson.
The crowd at the intimate confines of Court 6 was clearly in Fernandez's favour, chanting the Canadian's name throughout the match.
That didn't seem to bother Tauson, who went up 2-1 in the third set when an expertly placed backhand secured her sixth break of the match.
Tauson was rarely troubled in holding serve the rest of the way, serving to love in the final game.
The showdown was a rematch of the 2019 Australian Open junior final, which Tuason won in straight sets.
In first-round women's doubles play, the eighth-seeded team of Ottawa's Gabriela Dabrowski and Brazil's Luisa Stefani defeated Italy's Elisabetta Cocciaretto and Germany's Tatjana Maria 6-2, 6-2.
Dabrowski and Stefani will next face Hungary's Dalma Galfi and Poland's Katarzyna Piter.
Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., the only other Canadian still active in singles competition, is scheduled to face American wild-card Emma Navarro in women's second-round action on Thursday.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 31, 2023.
The Canadian Press