TORONTO — Denis Shapovalov looked across the hard court and saw that Robin Haase was starting to get tired. Shapovalov had lost the first two sets of their five-set Davis Cup match but could sense his opponent was losing his legs.
Over a gruelling three hours 35 minutes Shapovalov wore down Haase for the win as Canada took a 2-0 lead over the Netherlands on Friday night in the second rubber of their Davis Cup tie.
"After winning the third I just got pumped and I saw that he was slowly getting tired," said the 19-year-old Shapovalov. "In the fourth and the fifth I felt like I had more momentum, I was the better player, a little bit more fresh, and I was controlling most of the points."
Shapovalov, from Richmond Hill, Ont., struggled with his returns in the first two sets, but prevailed 3-6, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.
The most evenly matched pairing of the five-match international competition, Shapovalov is No. 34 on the ATP Tour's world rankings and Haase is 44th. They were 1-1 in their previous ATP Tour matches.
Shapovalov fell behind in the tightly contested fifth set, trailing three games to one but took back-to-back games to tie it. Haase took a 4-3 lead but Shapovalov came right back, winning the next quickly.
He took his first lead of the set, 5-4, when Haase's return went into the net. Shapovalov then put away the match with a strong return down the line that Haase stopped short on. Canada's captain Frank Dancevic tackled Shapovalov on the court, hugging him, with teammates Milos Raonic, Daniel Nestor, Vasek Pospisil and Felix Auger-Aliassime joined in the celebrations.
"That's one of the moments you're never going to forget in your life," said Shapovalov. "There was so much emotion, especially in the fifth set. To actually pull the comeback off, to actually win it, it was unbelievable."
Shapovalov's win came after Raonic, from Thornhill, Ont., manhandled Thiemo de Bakker in three sets in the first rubber of the draw. Raonic overpowered de Bakker 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, relying on his big serve for 23 aces to the Dutchman's three.
"Maybe it does set the tone in some ways, but as much as this is a team event, once you step out on the court you're there trying to figure out your own things," said Raonic, who is the top-ranked Canadian on the ATP Tour, No. 20. "Tennis, no matter what, will be an individual sport other than doubles. Those things don't change."
Played in Coca-Cola Coliseum at Toronto's Exhibition Place, home of the American Hockey League's Toronto Marlies, the two matches had a hockey atmosphere. Fans wore red and white, waved Canadian flags, banged drums, and clapped thundersticks together during stoppages in play.
Several times the chair umpire had to ask fans to quiet down with a terse "please," or "thank you." That did not satisfy Dutch captain Paul Haarhuis, who felt that two fans in particular were distracting Haase during serves.
"There's only one way to stop it and that's if you say 'stop it or you get a warning' and the referee didn't do jack," said Haarhuis. "He was just like 'well y'know, well y'know, I'm trying to do it.' At one point he has to step up and say 'O.K., you can't do it. One more time is a warning, next time it's a point (for the Dutch).'"
In the fourth set of Shapovalov's match against Haase the chair umpire threatened a fan with ejection when he kept making noise during Haase's serves.
"Honestly, I didn't quite understand it," said Shapovalov, who noted the arguments between the Dutch and the officials were disruptive to his rhythm. "At the end of the day, it's Davis Cup and there's going to be fans. It's not Wimbledon, y'know? This is what the event's about. It's about people cheering, playing the drums.
"It wasn't that bad. Yeah, there's a couple of people yelling out before the serve but nobody's yelling right before he serves. It's when he's bouncing the ball."
Nestor and Pospisil team up on Saturday in the doubles rubber, facing Matwe Middelkoop and Jean-Julien Rojer.
The singles matchups will flip on Sunday, with Raonic playing Haase and Shapovalov taking on de Bakker.
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John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press