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Preview: Carlos Alcaraz vs. Denis Shapovalov - prediction, head-to-head

Sports Mole previews Friday's French Open third-round match between Carlos Alcaraz and Denis Shapovalov, including predictions and their head-to-head record.

Men's number one seed Carlos Alcaraz continues his quest for a maiden French Open crown when he meets Denis Shapovalov in Friday night's third-round match.

The Spaniard overcame Japan's Taro Daniel in four sets to progress to round three, while his Canadian counterpart eliminated Matteo Arnaldi.

Match preview

Carlos Alcaraz pictured at the Madrid Open on May 5, 2023© Reuters

Any hopes Alcaraz had of not dropping a set en route to the Roland-Garros crown were dashed in his second-round affair with Daniel, who capitalised on a second-set blip from the reigning US Open champion to force his way back into the clay contest.

However, a blip was all it would prove to be for the 20-year-old, who took two hours and 25 minutes to post a 6-1 3-6 6-1 6-2 victory in two hours and 25 minutes, just reward for his exceptional work across the court.

From deft drop shots to blistering cross-court forehands, Alcaraz displayed a vast array of techniques typical of a man ranked number one in the world, having also begun his Roland-Garros venture with a comfortable three-set win over Italian qualifier Flavio Cobolli.

The Spaniard, who hit 47 winners against Daniel compared to just 11 for the Japanese, already has three clay-court honours to his name in the 2022 season from events in Barcelona, Madrid and Buenos Aires, and seven of his 10 ATP Tour titles so far have come on the surface - then again, so have his three defeats in tour finals.

No male player on the ATP Tour has won more first-serve return points over the past year than Alcaraz (35.4%), but Shapovalov enters Friday's contest having already achieved his best-ever finish at Roland-Garros and will not simply bow to the Spaniard's superior ranking.

Canada's Denis Shapovalov in action at the ATP Cup in January 2022© Reuters

Prior to the 2023 tournament, two of Shapovalov's four appearances at the French Open had ended in the first round, and he only got as far as the second in 2018 and 2020, but the world number 32 will now vie for a spot in round four for the first time in his own fledgling career.

It has been far from plain sailing for Shapovalov, though, as he nearly let a two-set lead slip against Brandon Nakashima in round one before prevailing in five, before also being taken to four sets in the second round against Arnaldi.

As was the case with Alcaraz against Daniel, Shapovalov's powers waned in game two, but the 26th seed ultimately came through 6-2 3-6 6-3 6-3, impressively winning 80% of points behind his first serve but only converting 31% of his break points in that two-hour and 55-minute contest.

Such missed opportunities would no doubt prove costly against a player of Alcaraz's calibre, as the two contenders battle for a spot in the fourth round against either Lorenzo Musetti or Cameron Norrie, who are coincidentally two of the three players to have ever beaten Alcaraz in an ATP Tour final alongside Jannik Sinner.

Tournament so far

Carlos Alcaraz:

First round: vs. Flavio Cobolli 6-0 6-2 7-5
Second round: vs. Taro Daniel 6-1 3-6 6-1 6-2

Denis Shapovalov:

First round: vs. Brandon Nakashima 6-4 7-5 4-6 3-6 6-3
Second round: vs. Matteo Arnaldi 6-2 3-6 6-3 6-3

Head To Head

With Alcaraz still only 20 years of age and Shapovalov coming in four years older at 24, it does not come as a huge surprise to learn that the pair have never faced off on the ATP Tour before, and Friday's battle has all the makings of an intriguing maiden affair.

SM words green background

We say: Carlos Alcaraz to win in four sets

Having already endured nine gruelling sets of tennis in the first two rounds, fatigue will no doubt work against Shapovalov, but the Canadian can still trouble Alcaraz with the down-the-line forehands that worked a treat against Arnaldi.

However, there are few better returners than Alcaraz at present, and with the 20-year-old effortlessly gliding across the clay to great effect, the reigning US Open champion should book his spot in the fourth round with aplomb.

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