Shapo­valov shock as bud­ding ca­reer booms

Promis­ing 19-year-old is set to be­come new Cana­dian No1 next week

Sport360 - - Italian Open - By Reem Abulleil @ReemAbulleil

De­nis Shapo­valov could not be­lieve it when he was told he will of­fi­cially be­come Cana­dian No. 1 when the new rank­ings are re­leased next week.

The 19-year-old, who is mak­ing his top-30 de­but this week in Rome, is en­joy­ing an as­ton­ish­ing rise that be­gan with a semi-fi­nal run at the Canada Masters last Au­gust, where he top­pled Rafael Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro en route.

Shapo­valov then made the fourth round at the US Open – his sec­on­de­ver Grand Slam main draw – and has reached two semi-fi­nals this sea­son, in Del­ray Beach as well as last week in Madrid, where he be­came the youngest semi-fi­nal­ist in the tour­na­ment’s his­tory.

His bat­tling 1-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5) vic­tory over 15th-seeded To­mas Berdych yes­ter­day on his Rome de­but means Shapo­valov will sur­pass Mi­los Raonic in the rank­ings to be­come the high­est-ranked Cana­dian.

“Oh yeah? Wow. I had no idea. Well, that’s cool,” he said when told about the new mile­stone he just hit.

“That’s pretty crazy ac­tu­ally. It’s some­thing I’ve wanted to work to­wards all my life. So to ac­tu­ally do it – I had no idea I was able to reach it. To be able to do that is pretty crazy. Hope­fully I could lead the coun­try to Davis Cup vic­tory one day.”

This time last year, Shapo­valov was ranked No. 393 in the world. To­day he is at 29 and will rise to at least 26 next week.

“It’s def­i­nitely hap­pen­ing ex­tremely quickly,” he said of his as­cent to Cana­dian No. 1.

“I had no idea so I’m a lit­tle bit in shock. But I’ve worked hard to try to achieve this one time in my ca­reer. It’s crazy that it’s come so early but that’s ex­cit­ing for me. It’s great news, it’s a rea­son to keep work­ing, keep stay­ing mo­ti­vated and hope­fully I can keep go­ing this way.”

Shapo­valov’s rapid progress hasn’t come with­out its chal­lenges. This year is his first full sea­son on the ATP tour and there are so many firsts he is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing.

“I’ve gained a lot of ex­pe­ri­ence. It’s my first full year as a tour player so I’m go­ing to all these new events. This is my first time in Rome. Every week it’s some­thing new for me. It’s ex­tremely fun,” he says.

“Last year at the end of the year when I started trav­el­ing to all these ATP events, I got a bit of homesick. First of all I felt like I didn’t be­long with these guys. Felt like, yeah I had two good tour­na­ments but I don’t know if my level is there yet.

“So I got homesick, it was a long trip, didn’t en­joy it at all. But af­ter the off­sea­son I sat down with my team and I kind of knew what to ex­pect this sea­son. And with that mind­set, I started en­joy­ing it, I started en­joy­ing all the me­dia, ev­ery­thing, go­ing to dif­fer­ent cities every week, and to be hon­est now I’m re­ally en­joy­ing the tour, I’m lov­ing it, and hope­fully I could do this for as long as pos­si­ble.”

Shapo­valov next takes on Dutch­man Robin Haase in the Rome sec­ond round and even though he only ever had one clay-court tour-level match win, his run to the semis in Madrid last week and his suc­cess over Berdych on Tues­day is a good sign that he’s find­ing his foot­ing on the red dirt.

“I had no idea so I’m in a lit­tle bit of shock”

– Shapo­valov

Ris­ing star: De­nis Shapo­valov is mak­ing his top-30 de­but this week in Rome.

Next round Robin: Shapo­valov faces Robin Haase in the Rome sec­ond round.

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