North Americans making noise early in U.S. Open qualifying

Denis Shapovalov, of recent Rogers Cup fame, began U.S. Open qualifying bid with a 6-3, 6-4 defeat of Denis Kudla on Monday. Shapovalov cracked 10 aces and capitalized on four of five break chances in an impressive all-around effort. He also benefited from five Kudla double-faults to prevail after one hour and 15 minutes.

“Unreal support today at @usopen,” Shapovalovic posted on Twitter. “Thanks so much to everyone who came to watch [heart emoji] #DontStopFighting”.

At only 18 years old, the Canadian is already up to No. 69 in the rankings. But his rapid rise came after the U.S. Open entry deadline, so he failed to gain direct entry into the field of 128. Thus Shapovalov is forced to play qualifying, and he will try to keep things going against Gastao Elias on Wednesday.

In qualifying, the competition level is a far cry from what he faced earlier this month in Montreal. At that Masters 1000 tournament, Shapovalov won four matches–including over Juan Martin Del Potro and Rafael Nadal–before falling to eventual champion Alexander Zverev in the semis.

Now he finds himself two victories away from the main draw of an even bigger event. The same can be said of a multitude of American men, including Bradley Klahn, J.C. Aragone, Mackenzie McDonald, Raymond Sarmiento, Christian Harrison, Austin Krajicek, Tim Smyczek, Mitchell Kreuger, Reilly Opelka, Michael Mmoh, and Evan King.

Smyczek scored a solid 7-6(5), 6-4 win over No. 16 seed Quentin Halys. Next up for him is Sarmiento, a straight-set winner over Benjamin Bonzi.

An intriguing second-round matchup to keep an eye on involves Shapovalov’s fellow Canadian, Felix Auger-Aliassime. The 2016 U.S. Open junior champion, who the 2015 U.S. Open junior doubles title with Shapovalov, is facing Sergiy Stakhovsky. Auger-Aliassime got the best of Hiroki Moriya, while Stakhovsky eased past Alexey Vatutin.

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