The young man who wants to reign
The new jewel of the tennis world is called Denis Shapovalov, he is 20 years old (his birthday was on Monday) and he shows a maturity inappropriate for his age. No one disputes that his tennis seems destined to occupy one of the first places in the ATP ranking, even to lead it in the not too distant future. Currently he occupies the 20th position. The Canadian is one of the strongest bastions of the new generation called to replace Nadal, Djokovic, Federer ... The NextGen is here. And it is a reality. He's here to stay...
Shapovalov, despite being the son of Russian parents (Viktor and Tessa), was born in Tel Aviv (Israel). His parents moved to that country after the collapse of the extinct Soviet Union. Soon after, his family moved to Ontario, Canada. Denis was barely 1 year old. At 5 years old he held his first racket. And from those first strokes to the current moment, his projection has been meteoric.
In January 2015, while still a junior, he reached the second round of the Australian Open, the first Grand Slam of the season. The message he sent to the world was loud and clear: he did not only have ambition but also immeasurable talent. A year later, he reached the semi-finals of the junior tournament of Roland Garros and a few weeks later he won the title at Wimbledon, also in the junior category, after defeating Alex de Miñaur. Finally, his name appeared in all the newspapers of the world.
As an outcome of these results, he received a wildcard to participate in Toronto and eliminated Nick Kyrgios in three sets, who at that time was ranked 19th in the ATP ranking. That was his first victory in a Masters 1000 tournament. Minutes later he stood in a crowded press room and surprised the journalists for his self-confidence. "My goal is for a good number of Canadian children to take a tennis racket instead of an ice hockey stick," he said.
In 2017, at only 18 years old, he consolidated his incipient prestige when reaching the Montreal semi-finals. Along the way he eliminated Juan Martín del Potro and the number 1 of the ATP ranking, Rafa Nadal. 'Shapo' became the youngest player in history to reach that stage in a Masters 1000 tournament.
There is only one dark moment in his career: with only 17 years and being 251 in the ranking he hit a poisoned ball that accidentally struck the chair umpire’s eye. Shapovalov disputed the decisive rubber of the Davis Cup tie between Canada and Great Britain. Although the images showed that there was no intentionality on his part, that action meant the immediate disqualification of the North American team.
At a time when players such as Tomic or Kyrgios say without shame that they do not feel love for this sport and only play for money, Denis Shapovalov stands as an alternative to that mercantilist vision of tennis: "Ever since I was a kid I wanted to play. I love tennis. I want to change the course of this sport, not only in Canada but also in all of America. I think I'm going in the right direction and I hope I can do it. "