Denis Shapovalov has not had the easiest of draws so far at the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championships but the third seed has passed with flying colours to reach the quarter-finals and is playing like the man to beat.
Shapovalov, 21, has faced two opponents against whom his record was far from convincing. Both have been emphatically beaten. First was Jan-Lennard Struff, who had beaten the Canadian in their previous four meetings. The German was dispatched for the loss of just four games.
Then came another step up in challenge against 13th seed Hubert Hurkacz on Wednesday. The Pole had won both of their past encounters, but he was no match for Shapovalov as the world No 12 claimed a comfortable 6-4, 6-3 victory in 76 minutes.
"I was focused on business on the court," Shapovalov said. "For sure, I’m playing some really good tennis. I’ve struggled against Hubert in the past and he’s such a great player with big weapons, so I’m really happy to get my first win against him. I was really feeling it in the important points."
The Canadian is one of the most eye-catching players on the ATP Tour with an arsenal of shot-making and a throwback playing style. And when it clicks, as it has so far this week, it can be irresistible.
Consistency can be an issue but for a player still in the infancy of his career –particularly one with a high-risk game – that is understandable. Perhaps the most telling statistic regarding Shapovalov's inconsistency lies in the fact he has now reached 21 quarter-finals in his short career but has only made it to two finals, winning one.
However, with more experience and time on the practice court, Shapovalov believes it is only a matter of time that more titles will follow.
"Of course you want to play every final but that’s just how it is," he said. "I'm sure of my ability to get [to finals] but so far it just hasn't been the case. But I'm not thinking about the past at all, I’m just focused on what I can do right now.
“Winning these matches is a good reminder of the level that I can play. It’s all about making that level more solid. I’ve been able to do that this week and I’m confident because I put a lot of work in and I believe in myself. Being able to play on this level consistently is what we’re striving for."
After emphatically defeating two opponents he holds losing records against, Shapovalov next faces a player he has beaten twice in two meetings. France's Jeremy Chardy earned the right to face the third seed after beating Russian eighth seed Karen Khachanov 6-7, 6-4, 6-4 over on Court 1.
If Shapovalov represents the future of men's tennis, one of his contemporaries was also busy making his mark on the tournament.
Jannik Sinner emerged victorious from the match of the week so far when the 19-year-old Italian eliminated fourth seed and 2018 champion Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.
Sinner, the 16th seed, takes on Russia's Aslan Karatsev who shot to prominence at the Australian Open as the first male player to reach a Grand Slam semi-final on his debut. Sinner will be the second Italian Karatsev has faced after he beat Lorenzo Sonego 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
In the evening's first match, Japan's former world No 4 Kei Nishikori continued his fine form with a routine 6-4, 6-4 win over Slovenian Aljaz Bedene.
Nishikori's victory was swiftly followed by second seed Andrey Rublev, who raced into the quarter-finals by thrashing an error-strewn Taylor Fritz 6-3, 6-1 in just 64 minutes.