Canadian teen tennis sensation Denis Shapovalov had the biggest win of his young career on Thursday night when he upset top-seeded Spaniard Rafael Nadal in the round of 16 at the Rogers Cup.
While the 18-year-old Richmond Hill, Ont., native’s profile — not to mention his world ranking of 143 — is sure to climb thanks to his success in Montreal, he’s still a relatively new face on the ATP Tour.
Here are five things to help Canadian tennis fans get to know the budding star:
HE’S MADE HISTORY … A FEW TIMES: The win over Nadal put Shapovalov into the quarter-finals of the Rogers Cup, making him the youngest player to advance to the tournament’s final eight since Bjorn Borg in 1974. He’s also the youngest quarter-finalist ever at an ATP Masters event, the highest level on the pro tour. In 2016, he became just the second Canadian to win the Wimbledon boys singles title. Filip Peliwo in 2012 was the first.
HE’S A LEFTY: Like tennis greats John McEnroe, Martina Navratilova, Jimmy Connors and Nadal, Shapovalov is left-handed. But being a southpaw may not give him the same advantage it gave some of his predecessors. Technical advances in rackets and court surfaces as well as a changes in game strategy and the rise of the two-handed backhand have levelled the playing field in recent years.
HE’S BEEN COMPARED TO ROGER FEDERER: Tennis analyst Craig O’Shannessy once described the young Canadian as "a left-handed version of Federer, with that one-handed backhand," according to the Telegraph in Britain. O’Shannessy also said there is "no ceiling" for Shapovalov, and praised his "great energy and rapport with the crowd." He’s certainly made an impression this week in Montreal, with Wayne Gretzky and star swimmer Penny Oleksiak among his boosters in the stands.
HE RECENTLY CHANGED COACHES: Before the start of the season, his first full campaign as a pro, Shapovalov split with his coach Adriano Fuorivia, who he had worked with for more than four years. Canadian Davis Cup captain Martin Laurendeau was hired as his replacement. Shapovalov said earlier this year 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," he said. "It was nothing that happened between us, it was just more of a decision that we made together."
HE’S STILL A KID: Shapovalov showed a flash of immaturity when a ball he carelessly hit in frustration during a Davis Cup match in February struck a chair umpire in the eye. He dealt with the fallout like a man however, making no excuses for the incident, saying he lost control of his emotions and behaved unprofessionally. While he apologized to the umpire, his teammates and tennis fans, the International Tennis Federation didn’t let him off the hook. He was fined US$7,000.