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Shapovalov Tops Coric, Sets Fritz Clash In Tokyo Semi-finals

Canadian chasing back-to-back final appearances in Asia

Denis Shapovalov and Borna Coric both entered the Tokyo quarter-finals with perfect set records this week. The Canadian, a finalist last week in Seoul, kept his streak intact with a 6-4, 6-3 win on Friday evening reach the semis for the second time at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships.

"I think I played great today," Shapovalov said in a post-match press conference. "In general, my level the last two weeks has been great, so I'm very happy to be back in the semis."

Shapovalov converted on three of his four break chances to earn his first ATP Head2Head win against Coric in his third try. The seventh seed dropped serve on the only break point he faced as he failed to serve out the opening set at 5-4, but he snapped back to secure the set on return.

After breaking again midway through the second set, he rode strong serving to victory in one hour, 17 minutes. Taking full advantage of the speedy conditions under the closed roof in the Ariake Colosseum, the 23-year-old lost just three points on his own delivery in the second set, during which he enjoyed a run of 13 straight points won on serve.

"When my serve is going well, the rest of my game, I can kind of relax and play pretty freely," he said. "Me and my team have put a lot of work into returns as well, so I think that's an area where I've improved a lot, as well as the serve. I think those are the two most important shots in the game."

Now 7-2 at the ATP 500 event, where he reached the 2018 semis, Shapovalov will bid for his second final in as many weeks when he takes on Taylor Fritz. He has compiled a 6-1 record between Seoul and Tokyo, with each win coming in straight sets. This week's success has lifted him two places to No. 20 in the Pepperstone ATP Live Rankings as he builds back toward his career high of World No. 10, achieved in 2020.

Shapovalov owns a 4-1 ATP Head2Head record against Fritz, who advanced to the semi-finals via walkover after Nick Kyrgios withdrew with a knee injury. The Canadian claimed the first three meetings, including a five-set win at the 2020 US Open, before the pair split two 2021 contests. All five matches were played on hard courts.

"It's been a great effort for him, the way he's been playing and fighting through matches," Shapovalov said of Fritz, referencing the American's last-minute arrival in Tokyo after testing positive for COVID-19 and quarantining for a week in Seoul.

"So for sure the rest was nice for him today," he continued. "He's a very difficult opponent. I think it's going to be a great match for both of us. I think we're both very exciting to watch and we've had some amazing battles in the past, so it's going to be really fun tennis."

Photo Credit: Hiroshi Sato