On a day that was discombobulated by rain delays, Milos Raonic saw his Rogers Cup come to an end on centre court, while Denis Shapovalov delivered another win after his match was bumped to a back court.
Raonic lost to American Frances Tiafoe, 7-6 (4), 4-6, 6-1, while fellow Torontonian Shapovalov beat Italy’s Fabio Fognini, 6-3, 7-5 on Wednesday. The fair-haired Canadian teen, who booked a third-round match with Robin Hasse of the Netherlands on Thursday, said he’s feeling similarly confident to when he made his breakout run to last year’s Rogers Cup semi-final.
“I think my game is at a very high level right now,” Shapovalov said. “I think having my mom on the side has really helped me the last couple weeks. I’ve really picked up my game.”
Wednesday’s order of play kicked off an hour late as crews dried out courts after heavy morning rainfall. Four-time Rogers Cup champion Novak Djokovic began the morning by swiftly beating Canadian wildcard Peter Polansky 6-3, 6-4.
World No. 29 Raonic and No. 41 Tiafoe then took centre court and began warming up in cloudy, humid early afternoon conditions. Within minutes, torrential rain sent the players and fans scrambling for cover.
During a rain delay that lasted some two hours, a tweet from Shapovalov’s account suggested he was displeased to learn his late-afternoon match scheduled for centre court would be bumped to on a smaller back court to ease the logjam of waiting matches for centre court. (Rafael Nadal would later beat Benoît Paire 6-2, 6-3 there before Canada’s Félix Auger-Aliassime played late on Wednesday night against Daniil Medvedev)
“Got moved to the grandstand #welldone #homeevent,” read Shapovalov’s tweet, which he deleted within minutes.
“I did make a Tweet and, you know, it came out the wrong way, which is why I deleted it,” said Shapovalov when asked specifically to address it after the match. “I was disappointed, obviously not for myself, but because there was so many fans and friends that wanted to come watch me on centre court and they weren’t able to.”
The scheduling change had the Raonic and Shapovalov matches played mostly at the same time, causing spectators to choose between them.
Raonic and Tiafoe resumed their spots on centre court – a venue that holds more than 10,000 but was less than half full when they began in the midafternoon. Raonic saved three break points to hold off Tiafoe in the first set as they battled to a tiebreak, which the American took. Tiafoe did not face a break point in the set.
Across the grounds, the fiery 19-year-old Shapovalov, world No. 26 and known to thrive before big Canadian crowds, began play at the grandstand. The 3,500-seat venue was nearly full and very lively for the player who recently surpassed Raonic as Canada’s top-ranked male singles player.
Raonic and Tiafoe were tied 3-3 in the second set when the next frustrating rainstorm came bucketing down, forcing the court to clear yet again. Shapovalov was up a break on world No. 14 Fognini and serving for the first set when the rain arrived.
Spectators packed into tents and concourses to wait out the downpour.
When play finally resumed about 6:30 p.m, Raonic played before a thinner crowd but found brief new life, breaking Tiafoe for the first time and pressing on to win the set. But it was all Tiafoe in the third set, breaking Raonic early, confounding him with a variety of serves and repeatedly blistering shots beyond his reach. Raonic served 20 aces to Tiafoe’s six. Still, the Canadian’s ninth Rogers Cup appearance came to an end.
“I played sort of the wrong way. I rushed a little bit on my serve, didn’t take the time I needed and just became a little bit too predictable,” said a sombre Raonic. “I definitely didn’t do the thing I need to, and that’s take care of my serve in the third.”
Shapovalov took the first set quickly when they resumed play. But he then allowed Fognini to steal the momentum with a 4-0 lead to start the second set.
At one point during a changeover, Fognini appeared to holler something at the Canadian in Italian.
“I’m not sure what he said. It was really loud. And unfortunately, I don’t speak Italian yet, so maybe you guys can roll it back and have a slow motion,” Shapovalov said. “I just told him if he has a problem, we can discuss it after. But, yeah, I just tried to stay focused.”
The Canadian charged back by breaking the Italian three times in the second set, then held serve for the victory.
The last Canadian man to win a singles title on home soil was Bob Bedard, who hoisted the trophy at the 1958 Canadian Championships.