Connor McDavid: Denis Shapovalov is ‘such an exciting player’

Edmonton Oilers' Connor McDavid (97) celebrates a goal. (Jason Franson/CP)

While most of the hockey world prepares for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final between the Vegas Golden Knights and Washington Capitals Monday night, Connor McDavid is taking in a bit of tennis.

Fresh off a stint with Team Canada at the World Championship in Denmark, the Edmonton Oilers captain took the short trip over to Paris while enjoying an off-season vacation and just so happened to catch a bit of the French Open to cheer on Canada’s Denis Shapovalov.

The two athletes have formed a friendship — McDavid even has bragging rights over his fellow countryman after winning a ping-pong battle — and the hockey star served up some praise for him during a short Tennis Channel interview on Monday.

“I know Denis pretty well, just through having the same sponsors in BioSteel and we’ve done some shoots together,” McDavid said. “It’s so exciting for him and for Canada and for tennis, really. He’s such an exciting player. I mean, you saw what he did in Montreal at the Rogers Cup — it was so exciting to have Canada get behind him and see him do well, it was exciting.”

Shapovalov rocketed up the world tennis rankings last summer when he made a thrilling surprise run to the semi-finals in Montreal, and has been a must-watch on the court ever since as one of the sport’s rising stars. The 25th-ranked player will face Australia’s John Millman (No. 59) Tuesday morning in the French Open’s Round of 128.

McDavid’s praise wasn’t just limited to Shapovalov. He also spoke about his admiration for tennis players in general, from one athlete to another.

“Any athlete has such respect for many different athletes — mainly just for the grind. I was talking to Denis today, he was telling me he’s been in Paris for 11 days already and the tournament hadn’t even started. To think of that, that’s so long,” McDavid said. “And they play just about every week, and then you watch these matches that go on hours and hours and hours, it’s just like ‘how are you guys even out there?’ It can be a very gruelling sport, so they’re definitely very tough in their own right and we have nothing but respect for them.”

McDavid’s Stanley Cup prediction: ‘I don’t care.’

Following the lead of the commentators’ tongue-in-cheek question about the Stanley Cup Final, McDavid opted not to pick a side when asked about who will hoist the Cup.

“I don’t care,” he said with a laugh, before sharing the briefest of scouting reports on the contenders.

“We actually did good against Vegas. We beat them twice in three meetings,” he pointed out.

As for the Capitals?

“The Caps gave it to us pretty good,” he said.

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