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Dominic Thiem vs Denis Shapovalov Abierto Mexicano Telcel tennis live: Thiem in second round danger against rising Shapovalov

Andrew Hendrie in ATP Tour 28 Feb 2018
  • Dominic Thiem vs Denis Shapovalov is live from Acapulco not before 6.00pm local time on Wednesday (12.00am GMT, Thursday)
  • First meeting between the pair
Dominic Thiem (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)

Former Acapulco champion Dominic Thiem continues his title quest on Wednesday when he faces Canadian teenage sensation Denis Shapovalov in the second round.

Another popcorn early round encounter awaits at the Abierto Mexicano Telcel in Acapulco on Wednesday night with third seed Dominic Thiem squaring off against rising star Denis Shapovalov. Theoretically, Acapulco is the perfect transition from clay courts to hardcourts for Thiem, but the Austrian remains vulnerable on the latter surface - as was illustrated through his grinding win in the first round. Can Shapovalov, who’s confidence is up having made the Delray Beach semi-finals last week before scoring a marquee win over Kei Nishikori in the first round, register the upset? Thiem and Shapovalov take to court around 6.00pm AEDT on Wednesday (12.00am GMT, Thursday).

The hot and humid conditions in Acapulco should suit Thiem’s heavy and muscular brand of tennis nicely - at least it did in 2016 when he defeated the likes of Grigor Dimitrov, Sam Querrey and Bernard Tomic to win the title. However, after a quarter-final defeat to Querrey last season and a battling three-set victory over British qualifier Cameron Norrie in his opening round on Tuesday, I’m of the opinion Thiem is on genuine upset alert in his upcoming match-up with Shapovalov.

Thiem’s hardcourt winning percentage currently stands at 54, which means he’s losing almost half the matches he plays on the surface - hardly conducive of a player ranked No. 6 in the world. The Austrian wins 74 per cent of matches he plays on clay, and that is why he’s been ranked in the top 10 for almost two straight years now, including last year when he won his only title of 2017 in Rio de Janeiro before going on to make the Barcelona and Madrid Masters finals, along with semi-finals in Rome and the French Open.

Transitioning back to hardcourts after the grass season and could only make one quarter-final out of nine tournaments, while his start to 2018 on the surface was hardly spectacular, reaching the semi-finals in Doha before withdrawing due to illness, while with an outstanding chance at making the Australian Open quarter-finals beckoning, he lost in five sets to the unheralded Tennys Sandgren. Switching back to clay for the Golden Swing unsurprisingly yielded immediate success for Thiem as he captured his second Argentina Open crown in Buenos Aires without dropping a set, but he was bundled out of the Rio Open quarter-finals the following week as the defending champion - emphatically at that, suffering a crushing 6-4 6-0 loss to Fernando Verdasco.

Thiem was on his way to what he thought would be a routine opening round victory over qualifier Norrie on Tuesday night, but he failed to convert a match point as he served for the match at 5-4 in the second, and as a result, he was dragged into what ultimately became a titanic tussle. Thiem was able to dig out a 6-3 5-7 7-5 win in the end, but the match further highlighted Thiem’s struggles on hardcourts. Can Shapovalov take advantage and claim a second top 10 win?

Denis Shapovalov (Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images)
Ranked 250 in the world at the beginning of 2017, 18-year-old Shapovalov has shot up the rankings over the last 14 months, arriving in Acapulco at a current mark of No. 45. The Canadian captured Challenger titles in Gatineau and Drummondville to earn a wildcard into the Montreal Masters - and that was the moment Shapovalov seized his chance at the big time, propelling himself into the spotlight with sensational victories over Juan Martin del Potro and Rafael Nadal before going down in the semi-finals to Alexander Zverev.

Many believed Shapovalov was due a wildcard into the upcoming U.S. Open courtesy of his run in Montreal, but the teenager showcased a tremendous mindset beyond his years to instead make his way through qualifying before scoring another notable scalp over Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as he advanced to the Round of 16 on his Grand Slam debut before falling to Pablo Carreno Busta.

Shapovalov would end the season ranked 51 in the world, and as mentioned, he’s already improved that mark in 2018 - although he didn’t have the greatest start to the year in January, losing in the second rounds of Auckland and the Australian Open to top players he beat last year - del Potro and Tsonga respectively. However Shapovalov is again making an impact in switching back to North America, reaching his second ATP semi-final in Delray Beach last week, while he finished strongly to come from behind to beat Nishikori in his Acapulco opener, winning 12 of the last 16 games in a 6-7(3) 6-3 6-1 triumph.

“I just kept fighting. I got my break, and the momentum went from there,” Shapovalov said. “It's tough to play him. He's so solid. He moves extremely well. It was an extremely difficult match for me.”

This will be the first time Thiem and Shapovalov have played against each other, and I give the teenager a great chance of coming away with the win. Thiem’s struggles on hardcourt are well documented and he’s clearly lacking confidence on the surface - at least compared to the way he approaches his matches on clay. Thiem doesn’t have the time time he likes on clay to set up his heavy groundstrokes - and Shapovalov’s pace of ball from the baseline will cause him problems. If Shapovalov can produce the sort of level he did in the last two sets of his win over Nishikori, I can see him prevailing in this match-up.

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Dominic Thiem vs Denis Shapovalov Abierto Mexicano Telcel tennis live: Thiem in second round danger against rising Shapovalov

Former Acapulco champion Dominic Thiem continues his title quest on Wednesday when he faces Canadian teenage sensation Denis Shapovalov in the second round.

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