The 18 year old won 13 straight matches in the Canadian province, picking up a pair of ATP Challenger titles in Drummondville and Gatineau, before the run came to an end last week in the Grandby semi-finals (l. to Polansky). On Tuesday afternoon in Montreal, with Wayne Gretzky watching from his box, Shapovalov collected another W in Quebec as he saved four match points en route to victory over Rogerio Dutra Silva on Court Central.
“It’s pretty crazy, the Challengers that I’ve won have been in home in Canada,” said Shapovalov. “Obviously the support has a really good effect on me. My best results have been at home, and it’s thanks to the crowd and thanks to the people that are helping me out, getting me ready at home, just giving me that extra little bit of court time. I love playing at home and I always feel like I bring my best game here.”
Denis Shapovalov: The Playmaker
Case in point, last year’s Rogers Cup in Toronto provided the stage for his first tour-level win. Shapovalov, who grew up watching and attending this ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament, requested to play on Centre Court in his main draw debut and delivered a 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-3 upset over No. 11 seed Nick Kyrgios in the opening round.
“It was huge for me… I didn’t expect to win obviously,” he said. “I think in the first set he might’ve been taking me a little bit lightly, but I stuck with him and it turned out to be an unbelievable match. I remember that feeling when I won and the roar of the crowd. It was an unforgettable moment for me, and I’ve taken that everywhere I go, that confidence, just the thought that I could be there and I’ve played better since.”
Federer remembers watching Shapovalov play in the Wimbledon juniors and also had a chance to practise with the teen a few years ago in Toronto, when he needed a lefty for a hitting partner. “He came out, had these big shots, great sliding serve and a lot of different types of shots, and I like to see that,” said the Swiss. “I’m a big fan of his, and I’m sure we’re going to see a lot of Denis in the future.”
Shapovalov had set a goal earlier this year of reaching the Top 150 of the Emirates ATP Rankings, but is now aiming higher – Top 100 – with his recent success pushing him to a career-high No. 130 in July. He also has his sights set on the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals, which will feature the top 21-and-under singles players on the ATP World Tour. Shapovalov entered Montreal at No. 11 in the Emirates ATP Race to Milan.
“With the two past weeks with the Challengers I’ve really made a push for it. I think I’m sitting [around] No. 10 right now, so I’m really close to getting in,” he said. “Honestly it’d be a great privilege to go and play that… I hope at the end of the year I can be a part of it.”