Shapo­valov get­ting com­fort­able with daunt­ing de­ci­sion to turn pro­fes­sional

Cape Breton Post - - SPORTS - BY RYAN MCKENNA

De­nis Shapo­valov’s tran­si­tion to pro­fes­sional ten­nis hasn’t come with­out its strug­gles.

An an­kle in­jury suf­fered last fall while train­ing made the 17-year-old Cana­dian prospect won­der whether turn­ing pro was the right move. Shapo­valov had even en­tered into the ju­nior tour­na­ment at the Aus­tralian Open in hopes of get­ting some more play­ing time.

But af­ter chat­ting with his team, it was de­cided that there wasn’t any point in go­ing back to the ju­nior ranks.

“If I com­mit to pros, I re­ally got to stick to it and I think it was a good de­ci­sion,” Shapo­valov said in a phone in­ter­view from Ottawa, where he’s pre­par­ing for this week­end’s Davis Cup World Group tie against Bri­tain.

Shapo­valov, from Rich­mond Hill, Ont., orig­i­nally de­cided to jump from ju­niors to the pros af­ter win­ning the Wim­ble­don boys sin­gles ti­tle last July. In­creased travel de­mands, how­ever, have re­sulted in Shapo­valov be­ing home for only a few days so far this year.

“Ob­vi­ously it’s tough, miss­ing my par­ents, fam­ily in gen­eral but I’m get­ting used to it,” Shapo­valov said.

“It’s the life and hope­fully I’ll get some time to go home maybe for a week or a bit to catch up on things.”

Shapo­valov, cur­rently ranked No. 234 in the world, broke into the spot­light in 2016. Along with the Wim­ble­don vic­tory, he shocked cur­rent world No. 15 Nick Kyr­gios in the first round of the Rogers Cup in Toronto and earned a Davis Cup sin­gles vic­tory in his de­but against Chile in Septem­ber.

Shapo­valov has car­ried that mo­men­tum into this year and al­ready has a vic­tory over Pierre-Hugues Her­bert of France, then ranked No. 76, in the round of 16 at the East Ho­tel Can­berra Chal­lenger in Aus­tralia.

The south­paw un­der­went a coach­ing switch in the off­sea­son, split­ting with Adri­ano Fuorivia, who he had worked with for over four years. Cana­dian Davis Cup cap­tain Martin Lau­ren­deau was hired as his re­place­ment.

Shapo­valov says that he and Fuorivia are on good terms de­spite part­ing ways.

“Adri­ano thought that some­one with more ex­pe­ri­ence like Marty would be a good ben­e­fit to my team,” Shapo­valov said. “It was noth­ing that hap­pened be­tween us, it was just more of a de­ci­sion that we made to­gether.”

Lau­ren­deau said join­ing forces with the six-foot, 132pound is a good fit, as the 52-year-old is also re­spon­si­ble for Ten­nis Canada’s tran­si­tion pro­gram.

“He’s the best 1999 born in the world,” Lau­ren­deau said. “We have a great prospect in our hands.”

Although Lau­ren­deau praises Shapo­valov’s abil­ity, he cau­tioned that the teenager is cur­rently is a key tran­si­tion pe­riod.

“It’s where they ei­ther make it or break,” Lau­ren­deau said. “It’s not a given that if you’re a top ju­nior in the world that you au­to­mat­i­cally be­come a top player in the men’s game.

“You have to be pa­tient and dis­ci­plined and just go through the steps and just make sure we man­age that ca­reer care­fully with wild­cards. You don’t have to speed up some­body so fast that you burn some steps, but you don’t want to hold him down ei­ther so it’s al­ways a fine bal­ance and that’s the chal­lenge.”

Shapo­valov

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