Over the last decade, Tennis Canada has produced a new wave of successful Canadian tennis players. Starting with Vasek Pospisil in 2007, Milos Raonic in 2008, and Eugenie Bouchard in 2009, Canadians have been a force to reckon with on the courts, beating some of the best players in the world. However, Canada’s best might be knocking on the door to glory.
Currently ranked 27th in the world, Denis Shapovalov is no stranger to success on the big stage — he won the US Open Doubles Junior Grand Slam in 2015 and the Wimbledon Singles Junior Grand Slam in 2016. Shapovalov exploded onto the professional scene in 2017, beating then-second-ranked seed Rafael Nadal at the Rogers Cup in Montréal. The star on the rise spoke with The Varsity about his success and his future in tennis.
During this year’s Rogers Cup in Toronto, Shapovalov had the opportunity to play on Centre Court in his hometown.
“Playing at home is truly amazing. It’s very rare to have a chance to play in your home country so when I have that chance I try to take advantage of it. I really love having the crowd behind me, so I try to get them engaged as much as possible,” Shapovalov said.
“Obviously it’s great to have my friends and family around to watch me play. When I am on the court I try not to pay too much attention to that; however, it’s great to see them off the court because I am usually travelling, so I don’t get a chance to see them often,” Shapovalov added.
When asked about beating Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin Del Potro in 2017, Shapovalov replied, “Beating them was a huge step forward in my career. I was about 130th in the world when I beat them, so with that tournament my ranking jumped a lot and made me eligible to play in bigger events. It was also a huge confidence booster for me, knowing that I am able to beat players of that level. It really inspired me to work harder to keep improving.”
Shapovalov’s big wins sparked a climb up the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) ranking from 133rd to 67th.
When it comes to tennis supremacy, four men lead the way in the Golden Era of Tennis: Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, and Roger Federer. Combined, they’ve won 50 of the 55 major single titles, from the 2005 French Open to the 2018 US Open.
It’s hard to imagine tennis without the Big Four, but Shapovalov suggested that the future of tennis may start to change.
“It’s difficult to know exactly what the future of tennis holds. However, I see a lot of talented young guys on the come up. I’m sure [in] the next couple of years we are going to see a lot of ranking changes with lots of young guys coming up and older guys dropping out,” he said.
Denis Shapovalov is not only a talented singles player, but also a competitive doubles player. Yet, even the biggest names in the sport have difficulties balancing both events.
“I think doubles is equally as exciting as singles. You have a lot more ‘hotshot’ points and the game has a very high pace, so it is fun to watch,” he said. “For me, it’s a chance to work on some components of my game that I usually cannot in singles matches. Such as serving and volleying.”
Like most professional athletes, Shapovalov’s daily routine is broken down by the minute. When he isn’t competing or travelling his schedule is:
9:00 am: Wake up
9:30 am: Breakfast
10:00–10:45 am: Mobilization
11:00 am to 1:00 pm: On court training
1:00–3:00 pm: Lunch and break
3:00–4:30 pm: Fitness
4:30–6:00 pm: On court training
6:00–7:30 pm: Cool down and recovery
7:30–10:00 pm: Dinner and off time
10:00 pm: Bedtime
What makes Shapovalov a real threat in the future is his desire to improve.
“I think I have a lot of areas where I can improve. I think mentally I am still growing and improving. Physically I can keep getting stronger and more explosive. And on court I can improve a lot in my net game,” he said.
Looking toward the 2019 tennis season, a motivated Shapovalov has the opportunity to make some noise atop the ATP rankings.