Denis Shapovalov battled past 19-year-old Jannik Sinner in five sets to reach the second round of the Australian Open.
The match was the standout first-round men’s tie when the draw was made last week, pitting the 21-year-old 11th seed Shapovalov against last year’s French Open quarter-finalist, and their first of potentially many meetings did not disappoint when it closed out the opening day of action in Melbourne.
The clock ticked passed midnight when the decider got under way, and it was the Canadian who held his nerve, completing a 3-6 6-3 6-2 4-6 6-4 victory.
Shapovalov could hardly have asked for a more difficult opening round encounter at the first Grand Slam of 2021, with world No 32 Sinner the highest-ranked teenager in the men’s game but unseeded given the draw took place last week.
Sinner won the Adelaide International on Sunday, helping him climb up the rankings from 36th, and he kept that momentum with him when taking the opening set against Shapovalov.
Shapovalov then saved four break points before breaking Sinner in the eighth game of the second set, going on to level at 1-1.
The Canadian then motored ahead, winning five games on the spin to clinch the third set before going a break up in the fourth set.
However, Sinner battled back, winning five of the next six games to force a decider.
Come the final set, Shapovalov edged ahead immediately, and he was able to maintain that advantage to seal an exhausting but impressive win after almost four hours on court.