The more Canadian Denis Shapovalov started winning, the higher his expectations got. After not winning one match on clay in 2017, Shapovalov showed vast improvements by reaching the semifinals in Madrid–defeating Tennys Sandgren, Benoit Paire, Milos Raonic, and Kyle Edmund. While a 2nd-round loss to Maximillian Marterer in four sets wasn’t what the 19-year-old was hoping for at the French Open, it shouldn’t be a reason for concern.
Even though it was a great opportunity to reach the fourth round–with a likely winnable third round match against lucky loser Jurgen Zopp up next–most importantly Shapovalov showed that he will be able to compete with the world’s best on clay one day. He’s never been one to shy away from the big stage, so it’s only a matter of time before he’ll find himself in the second week at Roland Garros.
Shapovalov’s attitude on his worst surface was positive to see. If you aren’t an experienced clay court player, it can be one of the most frustrating surfaces to play on. He fully embraced the challenge of playing on clay, which will only make him better in years to come.
Last year at this time, Shapovalov was in the qualifying draw at the Surbiton Challenger, ranked #193 in the world. He first showed signs of what he was capable of at the Queen’s Club in London, coming through qualifying and defeating Kyle Edmund in the first round. It’s clear that Shapovalov is much more comfortable playing on grass, so it will be interesting to see if the former junior Wimbledon champion can make a run there this year.
The North American hard court swing should also prove to be a part of the tennis calendar where Shapovalov will be threat week in and week out. As we saw in Montreal last year, he’s going to thrive off the crowd wherever he’s playing. Now that he’ll be able to receive direct entry to all of the events this summer, look for him to take his game one step further in what is still only his first full year on tour.
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