The rumblings started late last year, not long after Denis Shapovalov had upset Juan Martin del Potro and Rafael Nadal en route to the Coupe Rogers semi-finals and then reached the fourth round at the US Open. Could Shapovalov back up his breakout season in 2018, or would the 19-year-old suffer the dreaded second-year slump, as players and coaches break down his game with more film and more matches available to study?
The answer, resoundingly, has been the former. Shapovalov has not only repeated his breakout 2017; he’s improved upon it. By this time last year, the #NextGenATP Canadian was No. 51 in the ATP Rankings. But this year, Shapovalov is eyeing a Top 30 year-end finish as the regular ATP World Tour season heads into its final week.
Shapovalov Honoured With Two ATP Awards
The teenager is No. 29 in the ATP Rankings and a strong contender to again earn the ATP Star of Tomorrow presented by Emirates for the second consecutive year. The honour will go to the youngest player inside the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings on 5 November. Shapovalov received the award – and the Most Improved Player honour – during the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals in London.
The Past 10 ATP Star of Tomorrow Presented By Emirates Recipients
“This is incredible – first of all to be here and to win these awards,” Shapovalov said during the ceremony. “I definitely want to win an ATP World Tour title next year and finish in the Top 25, if everything goes well.”
The forthcoming Shapovalov is still searching for his first ATP World Tour title. He reached the semi-finals at the Delray Beach Open (l. to Tiafoe) and the Mutua Madrid Open (l. to A. Zverev), becoming the youngest semi-finalist in the history of the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament, and at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2018 (l. to Medvedev). Shapovalov also made the quarter-finals at the Nature Valley International in Eastbourne (l. to M. Zverev) and at the St. Petersburg Open (l. to Klizan).
But, with a strong finish to 2018, the Canadian will check off his goal of ending the year inside the Top 25.
“I think so far my season has been better than I expected. I’ve been playing unbelievably well throughout the season. I’ve really improved on clay courts. To be honest, my main goal this season was to improve my game… I feel like I’ve improved so much in my game, mentally,” Shapovalov said. “I just feel like I belong out there this year. I’m able to compete with anyone out there.”
Shapovalov has bulked up since last year, and he continues to benefit from a unique relationship with his mother, Tessa Shapovalova, who, along with Martin Laurendeau, coaches the teenager.
“She knows my game better than anybody, better than even I do. So that’s what I feel like makes her such a great coach and makes her work well with me,” Shapovalov said. “She does a really good job of being my mom off court and giving me my space and, you know, loving me. While on the court she’s tough and she keeps me disciplined and she’s my coach. She’s not my mom on court. And I feel like we’ve really found that balance together.”
Shapovalov is currently in third place in the ATP Race To Milan and recently secured his place at the Next Gen ATP Finals, to be held 6-10 November. The Canadian fell one match short of reaching the semi-finals during last year’s inaugural edition.
“It’s a nice tournament to play at the end of the year… It was a lot of fun,” Shapovalov said. “Hopefully… I can do well in the next couple tournaments. Even if not, my main goal, as I’m 19, is to keep improving. Even if the results don’t come now, I’m trying to improve my game for years to come.”