What a difference a week – and saving match points – makes!
Denis Shapovalov emerged as the talk of Canada and the tennis world this week after his breathtaking run to the semi-finals of the Coupe Rogers in Montreal. But had he not saved four match points in the opening round against Rogerio Dutra Silva, the 18 year old would be battling in relative obscurity next week at the ATP Challenger Tour event in Vancouver, still at around No. 150 in the Emirates ATP Rankings.
History will show that Shapovalov fought off those four match points, then beat Grand Slam champions Juan Martin del Potro and Rafael Nadal en route to the Montreal semi-finals, where he pushed World No. 8 Alexander Zverev to 6-4, 7-5. That result will see him move inside the Top 70 of the Emirates ATP Rankings on Monday. Talk about a game changer!
“I don’t even think I realise it yet; it’s a huge jump from 144 to 67,” Shapovalov said. “My whole life has changed in the past five days. It’s crazy how it is. I go from being not known to being so known in the tennis world, in Canada in general. It’s going to be a little bit of a change to me. I’m going to have to adapt…
“On TV, I wasn’t expecting to hear my name every two minutes. It’s like, ‘All right, guys, enough, enough (smiling). It’s quite a change going from just being a junior coming up to kind of now people consider that I’ve made the transition… regardless, this is one week. It’s just a small part of this season. I still have to work really hard. I still have so many aspects of the game I can improve.”
Spotlight On Shapovalov: Canada’s Rising Star
But if you think the new-found fame will change the left-hander, think again. Shapovalov says those closest to him will help him to keep life in perspective.
“I think personally I’m very lucky because I come from a very humble family that went through a pretty tough life. Not terrible life, but they had to work for a living and stuff. I have two parents that are always going to keep me grounded. My brother is going to do the same. No matter who I play against, he’s always on top of me just making sure I don’t get too big.
“Obviously it’s a little bit of a change for them, as well. My mom’s club is getting so much publicity because of this. They even had a bunch of news reporters come out, just randomly showed up. It was weird. They just had a camp. All of a sudden there’s all these news reporters showing up. It’s a little bit of a change for all of us. But we’ll get through it together.”
By reaching the Montreal semi-finals, Shapovalov will on Monday slash his Emirates ATP Ranking in half. That opens the door to the big time and, in the near future, direct entry to the ATP World Tour tournaments of his choice. However, in the short term he has a couple of decisions to make. Will he travel cross-country to stick with his plans to play in the Vancouver Challenger? Or will he rest up and focus on playing US Open qualifying?
“A lot’s changed in the past five days. [I was supposed to play] a lot of Challengers, a little bit of ATPs, try to get me into the Top 100. Now since I’m going to be around 67, I feel like it’s going to be a little bit more ATPs and maybe a couple of Challengers. I have to talk with the team. It depends on how I’m feeling, how I’m playing.”
In reflecting on his breakout week, Shapovalov said that everything was still sinking in. “It was a dream week for me. Obviously, I didn’t expect it. Saved four match points the first round, just played loose after that, just went with it. I mean, I beat one of my idols [Nadal].
“I’ve kind of seen that I’m capable to push these guys. I went pretty tight with Tomas, took out Kyle on grass. I think maybe the serve is getting bigger. That could be from the racquet change. As soon as I went to Yonex, I felt that little bit more pop on my serve and my forehand. Yeah, I have more feel with the racquet. So it could be that.
“I just think I’m improving every week. I’m playing a lot, but I’m also working a lot with Marty [Laurendeau]. This is still a transition year for me. I’m really trying to improve my game so that I can anchor myself in the Top 50, Top 20, Top 10.”