Why Denis Shapovalov Is Having a Wimbledon to Remember
WIMBLEDON, England – As she coached him in Toronto as a child, Tessa Shapovalova told her young son not to worry about balls spinning over his head when he went to the net . One day, she said, he would be big enough to reach them.
“From an early age, I was never a player who expected my opponent to make mistakes,” Denis Shapovalov said on Wednesday. “I always wanted to be the one to dictate. I would always come to the net from 10, 12, lobbing over there, dropping points.
“My mom always said to me, ‘Later, you’re going to grow up, and that’s going to be an advantage for you. It’s something that belongs to you. You have to keep it and maintain it for the future.
Shapovalov, 22, reached his first semi-final in a Grand Slam tournament at Wimbledon, where he will face Novak Djokovic on Friday in hopes of becoming the first Canadian to reach the final here since 2016.
“It was great that she had that vision for my years to come,” said Shapovalov, who is still coached by his mother. “It’s something that, like I said, I’ve always had.”
On the grass courts, which reward assertive play more than any other surface, Shapovalov has won the races rally after rally, round after round.
He hit 214 winners, most of the four semi-finalists, despite playing one game less than the other three.
In his victory in the first round, he hit 58 winners against 30 for Philipp Kohlschreiber. After receiving a second round forfeit from Pablo Andújar, he blew two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray off the field in the third round, snatching 45 winners from Murray’s 16. In his fourth round victory, Shapovalov hit 52 winners against 14 for Roberto Bautista Agut.
“I played against a very good version of Denis,” said eighth seed Bautista Agut. “I think he played really well. He was hitting so hard. He served well.
There have been, as Bautista Agut has suggested, lesser versions of Shapovalov in recent years; Shapovalov also hit the most direct errors of the remaining men at Wimbledon, with 170.
At the age of 18, Shapovalov made a stunning arrival on the tour by beating frontrunner Rafael Nadal at the 2017 Montreal Masters, electrifying a host of late-night sessions that included Wayne Gretzky in the front row. But in the years that followed, results didn’t always materialize for Shapovalov and his free arm, and he was forced to work to harness his power.
“Maybe sometimes I’m a little too wild, and I don’t make the opponents win on the big points,” Shapovalov said. “I’ve been a little more conservative, actually, this tournament.
Shapovalov’s more cautious play didn’t serve him well in Wednesday’s quarter-finals against Karen Khachanov: he lost the second and third sets.
“I knew that in the fourth and fifth I had to dictate and be aggressive,” Shapovalov said. “Otherwise, he was going to win the game. It comes quite naturally to me. I have always been an aggressive player. I always wanted to take pictures. It is in fact the opposite that I had to learn to take a step back and put more pressure on the opponents, to make them gain points.
He added: “Sometimes it helps me to have that naturally, especially in a game like today where the opponent is playing so well and they are not giving you anything. You kind of have to go and take it yourself. -same.
Shapovalov ultimately took it for himself, winning 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4, scoring 59 winners against 31 for Khachanov.
“I think my game just got better,” Shapovalov said. “This is something to be super, super proud of myself for.”
Khachanov, in defeat, conceded that Shapovalov “used it more” in crucial moments.
“It’s his type of game – he’s like that,” Khachanov said. “He also makes a lot of unforced errors, but that’s why I think he’s a tough player to play because, especially on grass, when he pulls the trigger he can do it. Sometimes you don’t expect to know where to run.
To advance one lap further, Shapovalov will have to penetrate the robust defenses of Djokovic. Shapovalov is 0-6 against him, but the two have never played on turf.
“You don’t have too many opportunities on his service game, especially here on the grass,” said Djokovic.
“I’m sure this will be the biggest test I have so far in the tournament, which is also expected – these are the semi-finals,” Djokovic added. ” I can not wait to be there. It’s gonna be a battle, and I have to be at my best.
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