Tennis legend Rod Laver full of praise for Denis Shapovalov


Canada's Denis Shapovalov celebrates winning against John Millman of Australia during their first round match of the French Open tennis tournament at the Roland Garros stadium in Paris, France, Tuesday, May 29, 2018. (Alessandra Tarantino/AP)

As an 11-time Grand Slam champion and the only player to hold all four major trophies at the same time twice, it’s safe to say Rod Laver knows a thing or two about playing the game of tennis.

So, it speaks volumes of the level Canadian sensation Denis Shapovalov has reached as the 79-year-old legend made special mention of the 19-year-old’s potential in a contributing piece to PlayersVoice on Monday — the Australian equivalent of The Players’ Tribune.

I’m very impressed with the young Canadian, Denis Shapovalov. He’s a leftie, like me, and at 19, he’s showing a tremendous amount of promise. I feel like he’s certainly going to reach the top if he continues with the attitude he’s got. He enjoys playing, every post is a winner, he’s very keen and naturally talented. You need some major strokes, like a big serve and a big forehand and he’s got that, and a single-handed backhand as well.

The Australian went on to say that Shapovalov just needs more time and experience to hone his special talent, but also not feel as though he constantly needs to prove himself.

“Alexander Zverev is a bit older, and he’s a better player than Denis is at the moment,” Laver wrote. “Zverev and Dominic Thiem, who made the French Open final, are probably the two young ones at the moment that are great, but Denis just needs to get a little bit more experience. Sometimes when you’re young, you say, ‘I want to show you guys how I can do this’, and so the next thing you know, you’re trying to do too much in your game. You’ve got to stay under control.”

Shapovalov is currently 26th in the ATP rankings and has been the Canadian No. 1 on the men’s side ahead of Milos Raonic — ranked 32nd — for a little while now. Despite that fact, the 19-year-old is seeded 28th, 15 spots below Raonic for Wimbledon which begins on July 2.

The oldest slam has a unique seeding system which factors in a player’s record specifically on grass surfaces.

The lofty expectations have gotten the better of Shapovalov on the Grand Slam stage thus far in 2018, having lost in the Round of 64 at both the Australian Open and Roland Garros.

Laver also shared some great stories about the grand prize of a “£10 voucher and a firm handshake” in 1962 and ’63 which eventually led to his decision to turn pro and create history as well as a Wimbledon quarterfinal he once played where the balls wouldn’t bounce. They used to store the balls in refrigerators back in those days, and Laver suggested that, on this occasion, the fridge was extra cold and made the balls unplayable.

Surely, something Shapovalov will never have to worry about.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.