NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Open looked to be all about the golden oldies Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal but the year’s final grand slam has a new wave vibe led by Canadian teenager Denis Shapovalov, who advanced into the fourth round at Flushing Meadows on Friday.
While Federer and Nadal, who have a combined age of 67 and won 34 grand slam titles, can still pull in a big crowd, they have been forced to share the spotlight with the young guns, none of whom are of legal age to celebrate their success with a drink in New York.
Shapovalov, who former world number one Mats Wilander has described as a combination of Federer and Nadal, is the leader of the tennis boy band that includes 19-year-old Americans Frances Tiafoe and Taylor Fritz and Russian Andrey Rublev.
The charismatic 18-year-old Canadian has infatuated the New York crowds with his skill and on court panache that has made him the youngest man to make it into the fourth round of the U.S. Open since American Michael Chang in 1989.
On way to the round of 16 the 69th ranked Shapovalov has yet to face a higher ranked opponent, taking down eighth seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets in the second round then moving on when Britain’s Kyle Edmund retired with injury trailing 3-6 6-3 6-3 1-0.
“We’re definitely making an impact,” assured Shapovalov. “There are a lot of young guys coming up and doing really well.
“I said it before, I think in a year or two, the rankings are really going to change.
“It’s kind of a transition time for the ATP, but, yeah, I think there is a lot of talent coming up.”
Shapovalov and Rublev, who faces Bosnia Herzegovina’s Damir Dzumhur on Saturday for a place in the fourth round, are still in the grand slam hunt but even in defeat, the young guns have left an impression.
Tiafoe left the crowd breathless taking five-time U.S. Open champion Federer five sets before surrendering in the opening round while Fritz’s grand slam ride ended in a four-set second round loss to Austrian sixth seed Dominic Thiem.
“Every Grand Slam, it’s a chance for young guys to prove themselves and I have been doing that,” said Shapovalov, who will take on 12th-seeded Spaniard Pablo Carreno Busta for a spot in the quarter-finals. “Hopefully I can keep doing that.
“Guys like Rublev or anyone else still in, why not?
“I think everyone is beatable.”
Reporting by Steve Keating in New York. Editing by Gene Cherry