US Open 2017: Injured Edmund beaten by teenage star Shapovalov, as draw opens for new names
British number two Kyle Edmund is forced to retire during his third round match against Denis Shapovalo at the US Open
The draw for the US Open this year already had an unusual look about it. Former champions Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Stan Wawrinka were missing injured, along with former finalist Kei Nishikori and former world No3 Milos Raonic.
There were #NextGen stars among the seeds, with 20-year-old Alexander Zverev heading his own quarter in a Major for the first time, and 21-year-old Karen Khachanov at a career-high ranking and seeded No25. Both were upset by unseeded men.
And there were players who might be regarded as veterans gaining their first seeding at the US Open: Gilles Muller, age 34, and Mischa Zverev, age 30, along with a swathe of other unseeded over-30s making an impression: Paolo Lorenzi, Leonardo Mayer, Viktor Troicki.
Mixed in were seeds who could well be unfamiliar to the casual tennis fan: Diego Schwartzman was seeded for the first time at a Major, Adrian Mannarino for the first time at the US Open.
Then there were four qualifiers in the third round at the US Open for the first time since 1999: Nicolas Mahut, Denis Shapovalov, Mikhail Kukushkin, Radu Albot.
So the draw had certainly opened up for the usual suspects: Five of the eight players remaining in Nadal’s quarter were unseeded; half the players in John Isner’s too; and it was the same in former champion Marin Cilic’s quarter, a spot taken at the bottom of the draw when Murray withdrew.
But it also opened up chances for a rising generation of players. Borna Coric impressed over fellow #NextGen rival Sascha Zverev. Andrey Rublev was outstanding against the No7 seed Grigor Dimitrov. And then two more young men with big games were getting ready to face off—on Arthur Ashe stadium, no less. The only remaining Briton in the singles draws in New York, 22-year-old Kyle Edmund, took on one of the breakthrough players of the last few months, 18-year-old Denis Shapovalov of Canada.
The charismatic left-handed teenager lit up his home tournament in Montreal with a semi-final run, beating Nadal. It made him the youngest player to reach a Masters semi-final since 1990, and the youngest to beat a top-two player since 2004. Had he reached his career-high 67 a week sooner, he would have been straight into the main draw here by right.
As it was, he came via the arduous qualifying route, but this athletic young player showed no signs of flagging. He did not drop a set in making the third round via No8 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, and now faced Edmund for the third time this year.
The Briton was on a good run, too, and also had a lot of matches in his legs. He was, indeed, about to play for the 10th time in 14 days after running to the semis in Winston-Salem before New York, and had already beaten No32 seed Robin Haase plus the powerful Steve Johnson.
Edmund broke through at this very tournament last year, too, reaching the fourth round—still his best Major result.
And it all started well for Edmund again, whose biggest weapon, his forehand, stood the test of Shapovalov’s show-stopping single handed backhand—a flamboyant shot that plays into the forehand of most opponents. Edmund raced to 3-0, but Shapovalov broke back, and after a couple of strong holds from both men, Edmund broke again. He fended off 15-40 to serve out the set, 6-3.
Shapovalov, who had played a night match under the roof on Ashe, seemed to have difficulty timing things in the hotter, drier conditions. But once he had his eye in, he became increasingly dominant. He broke Edmund in a long fourth game, and aced to hold for 4-1.
Edmund was convincing, too, in holding off four set points in a tough eighth game, but could not cash in on a break-back chance, and Shapovalov served out the set, 6-3.
There now seemed to be little between them, as Edmund rallied at the start of the third. The difficult light and shade of the court gradually edged away and there were fewer errors, but serving in the fifth game, Edmund pulled something in his neck, and the trainer was called.
It marked a speedy decline in the Briton’s form, as he painfully lost serve twice, while Shapovalov held to love for 6-3.
The trainer continued to work at Edmund’s lower neck, but to no avail, and he retired after the first game in the fourth.
Shapovalov admitted that he had heard and seen Edmund hurt himself:
“In one game he hit a second serve and I heard him grunt like he had hurt something and he called the trainer. It is very unfortunate but I am happy to be in the fourth round.
“It’s never good to win this way. I hope it’s not too serious. Kyle has been playing great tennis and if he keeps it up he will be doing really well.”
But make no mistake, Shapovalov has earned his place in the fourth round here, which has made him the youngest to reach the last 16 at the US Open since Michael Chang in 1989—and that after making his Major debut only six weeks ago at Wimbledon as a wild card.
He next plays No12 seed, Pablo Carreno Busta, who put out Mahut. However, this quarter was blown open by the defeat of 2014 US champion Cilic by Schwartzman, 4-6, 7-5, 7-5, 6-4. It took the Argentine through to the fourth round of a Major for the first time, where he will meet No16 seed Lucas Pouille.
Cilic had not played a match since Wimbledon, as he carried an injury through the US Open Series. He had come through his opening two rounds with relative ease, but here, he hit 80 unforced errors for 44 winners.
The highest seed now remaining in the bottom half of the draw is No10 Isner, who faces Mischa Zverev in the night session on Ashe. And Cilic’s exit guarantees a first-time Major finalist come the last day in New York, for the only other men in the draw who have made Major finals, Roger Federer, Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro, are all in the top half.
So the surprise names continue to flourish, continue to edge towards their own new milestones, continue to harbour hopes of a really big step in their careers, whether age 35 or 18. Schwartzman is a new arrival in the upper ranks at somewhere between those ages—and will rise to a new career high of at least 27 with this latest win.
He summed up what many in the draw will be considering.
“Yes, sometimes if you are lucky in the draw and you can take the chances, it’s always good for the new guys or for the guys who are out of the top 10.
“I think many players are doing well this week, and they are taking the opportunities because many players are injured this week. I think we are trying to take the chances and try to go forward in the tournament.”
How much further—for the likes of Lorenzi, Shapovalov, Rublev, Schwartzman and more—only time, and the tennis of their colleagues, will tell.