Shapovalov: ‘I’ve been doing much better, as I’ve grown’

Denis Shapovalov

Canadian Denis Shapovalov played many tournaments last year. He traveled the world, probably too much, so he needed some time off. Even last year, he grabbed some big matches, such as the Wimbledon semis. But he would be mediocre, and he lost. In 2021, he was pretty good, but not great, yet. He won 30 matches, and 23 losses.

But this week, he grew up fast, with his strong forehand and backhand, and his return, too. On Saturday, he stunned Alexander Zverev 6-3, 7-6, 6-3. Going into the tournament, the German had a chance to win a Grand Slam, but in Melbourne, that day, the No. 3 was very flat. Yes, there were a few moments, when he began to turn it around, but he dumped in a number of key errors, and then he started to slid
But not so for the No. 14 Shapovalov, who was totally focused. He would bend down, he would jump in the air, and smack the ball. He kept on going, he locked in, sprinting side to side.

Now, on Tuesday, he will face 20-time Grand Slam winner Rafa Nadal. That is a gigantic challenge. Shapovalov is not favored but believes that he can upset the Spaniard. It is possible, but in Rome, on clay, Nadal beat him 7-6 in the third.
“I’m definitely expecting a long battle out there. Obviously, he makes you play a lot,” Shapovalov said. “His defense is very good. He’s very good at what he does. So gonna have to try to play my game, take it to him and keep doing what I have been doing; playing patient, fighting for every point, picking my spots to play aggressively.

“There was a lot of doubts once I got to Australia with the quarantine, having gotten COVID, not sure how I would take it, not sure I would be able to play ATP Cup. Obviously very happy with the way I’m feeling, coming out of quarantine, playing ATP Cup, had a little bit of doubts, wasn’t ready to play the first match and worked my way through the tournament and started to feel back to normal towards the end of that week,” Shapovalov said. “So it was a good sign. And then coming here, I had a couple of aches and wasn’t feeling 100% physically. So wasn’t practicing that much and just trying to prepare the body as best as possible.

“Yeah, just really happy with where I am in terms of my game, in terms of the level right now. Obviously, every day is different. But I feel like with every match I have gained a little bit of confidence and a little bit of comfort playing on these courts. I’m just pleased overall with my game so far and my fighting spirit. Yeah, just battling out in every single match. Hopefully I can continue going this way.”
In Canada, Shapovalov was a little bit too slow, but he practiced all the time on his footspeed. He can hustle, and chip it all around. The most important thing, though, he can be patient until it was right there and leap it on. That is why he knocked off Zverev.

“It’s definitely something I’ve been learning to do. Hasn’t come natural to me, unfortunately,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to play quick and go for my shots. But it’s difficult when you play a guy with the caliber like Sascha. You can’t go through him in one or two shots. You have to stay in the rallies, you have to work for the points. Then when you have an opportunity then you can swing in and go for it. It’s been a little bit of adapting to that. I’ve been doing it much better, as I’ve grown. Hopefully I can just continue to improve that and really know when to pick my moments to go for it and to play aggressive.”