At the Open 13 in Marseille, France, fast-rising Canadian star, the 4th seeded Denis Shapovalov, who received a bye in his opening round, will take on the veteran Croatian, Marin Cilic in his Round of 16 encounter on Thursday.
The 31-year old Croat had to dig deep in his first round encounter as he overcame Ilya Ivashka in three sets 3-6, 7-6(7-5), 6-4 to set up his 3rd meeting so far on the ATP tour against the promising, 20-year old Canadian.
As far as their previous two clashes on the tour are concerned, Cilic and Shapovalov have shared the honours with one victory a piece. While Shapovalov won their last meeting at the 2019 Indian Wells Masters 1000 in straight sets 6-4, 6-2, Cilic won their opening clash with the identical score line at the Basel Indoors, back in 2018.
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Shapovalov, who was the finalist at the Paris Masters 1000 last November, also played a massive role in helping Canada to reach the finals of the Davis Cup at the back end of 2019. After beginning this year on a promising note with victories over the likes of Stefanos Tsitsipas, Alexander Zverev, and Alex de Minaur at the ATP Cup, the 20-year old Shapovalov has crumbled thereafter, losing his way and succumbed to triple first round exits in his last three tournaments which also includes his opening round exit at the Australian Open. As he prepares to face the dangerous Croat in his Round of 16 clash at Marseille, the young Canadian would desperately hope to turn around his fortunes as he aims to put an end to his streak of succumbing to opening round exits.
Cilic, the 2014 US Open champion, one of the very few players outside of the ‘Big 3’ to win a major in this era that has been dominated by the trio of Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic, has been off-colour for a while now. While he tried to achieve resurgence at the US Open last year and at the start of this season at the Australian Open where he reached the 4th round on both the occasions, his search for consistency continues as he prepares to face a challenging opponent in Shapovalov at Marseille.
Barring a title triumph at the Queen’s Club back in June 2018, Cilic, the runner-up at Wimbledon in 2017 and at the Australian Open in 2018, losing to Federer on both the occasions in the final, has not been able to strike his best form or find a purple patch on the tour for well over 18 months now. On the indoor hard courts at Marseille, the Croat would hope for redemption as he longs to achieve lost glory and become a dominant player on the tour that he once was.
The 20-year old southpaw on the ther hand, has a feisty single-handed backhand and can pose lot of problems to Cilic on both the wings if he could accurately execute his backhands during crucial junctures of the contest.
Will Shapovalov, with his exuberance, end his 4-match losing streak against the old warrior, or can Cilic pull out his tricks from his vast experience, hold the southpaw at bay to find a spot in the quarter-final for the first time since the Kremlin Cup, back in last October?
An interesting and exciting battle across the generations awaits us at the Open 13 at Marseille, France on Thursday.
Prediction: Marin Cilic to win in three sets.