KYLE EDMUND will hope to get YouTube hits for the right reasons when he faces Denis Shapovalov for a place in the fourth round of the US Open today.

Their first meeting at a Davis Cup tie between Canada and Great Britain in Ottawa this February ended with one of the most shocking incidents tennis has experienced in recent years.

Annoyed at going a break down in the third set of the deciding rubber, Shapovalov, then 17, smacked a ball in anger that hit umpire Arnaud Gabas in the face, fracturing the official’s left eye socket. Shapovalov was defaulted, leaving Great Britain and Edmund victorious but barely able to believe what had happened.

Loading article content

“I definitely watched it back,” said Edmund. “You can see on the video that my head was down when he hit it. I thought he hit it against the boards at the side where our team was.

“I thought the umpire was going, ‘oh no, what’s he done? You can’t smack a ball like that so close to people’, and then I realised it actually hit him. It’s quite funny actually, everyone is in shock, no one is really doing anything. A very weird one. 

It got a few YouTube hits. All of my matches have got something like 5000 or 10,000, then you go on that and it’s 200,000 just from that incident.

“I don’t think it will ever happen again. In the moment, he obviously realised he did wrong. In a funny way, I think it’s actually helped him mature because since then he has done well. He has really learned from it and moved forward.”

It was a devastating moment for Shapovalov but he reacted with instant remorse and, far from letting it define him, has set about making headlines on court for all the right reasons.

The teenager has focused on his mental approach since but does not believe facing Edmund again will bring back bad memories.

“I’ve been working extremely hard on it,” he said. “It’s definitely helped me mature. But I don’t think this match has anything to do with it. I’ve apologised constantly before, and I continue to apologise for my actions. It’s something I have to live with. But for me it’s in the past and I’m a different person and a different player now. So it’s a completely new match.”

Shapovalov was ranked 234 when the pair met in Davis Cup but is now up to 69, only 27 places behind Edmund, after a brilliant run of results. The highlight came on home soil earlier this month at the Masters event in Montreal, when he defeated Rafael Nadal and went on to reach the semi-finals.

He has carried that form into the US Open and, after coming through qualifying, marked his debut under the lights on Arthur Ashe Stadium by knocking out eighth seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in straight sets.

Were Shapovalov to make the fourth round, he would be the youngest man to do so at Flushing Meadows since Michael Chang in 1989 and at any grand slam since Marat Safin in 1998.

An explosive left-hander with a show-stopping single-handed backhand, the 18-year-old’s scalps in 2017 also include Edmund, who he beat at Queen’s Club in June, but the British No.2 is quietly confident. “It’s going to be a tough match but at the same time I’m playing well so definitely no reason why I shouldn’t go out there feeling confident.”

Meanwhile, another of the fancied names crashed out of the US Open as Grigor Dimitrov was beaten by teenager Andrey Rublev. The seventh seed went into the tournament among the favourites to win his first grand slam crown after claiming his most important title in Cincinnati two weeks ago.

But his career so far has been a story of flattering to deceive and this was yet another example, with Rublev winning 7-5 7-6 (7/3) 6-3.
Dimitrov is the third top-10 seed to fall, joining Zverev and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.

In the women’s draw, world No.1 Karolina Pliskova survived a major scare after losing the first set to American Nicole Gibbs but recovered to win 2-6 6-3 6-4.

There were more straightforward wins for fourth seed Elina Svitolina and French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko. Both won by a 6-4 6-4 scoreline, Svitolina against Evgeniya Rodina and Ostapenko over Sorana Cirstea.