Name: Denis Shapovalov
Similar playing style to: Stan Wawrinka
The amount Denis Shapovalov has achieved in his tennis career by the age of 18 is truly astonishing. The wins over world class players, improvement in his all-round game and the evidence he has a tough heart at such a young age are a few of the impressive components he has shown to date.
When first arriving on the scene, the young Canadian was perhaps underestimated in his potential – was he just a one trick pony with his dominant serve? Certainly not. There’s no doubt this young prodigy will go onto win grand slams.
Shapovalov was selected in the Canadian Davis Cup team to face Great Britain back in early 2017. After a loss to Dan Evans, then a disqualification to Kyle Edmund for hitting the umpire in the face with the ball, it’s fair to say his first showing on the big stage didn’t quite go to plan.
However, it was later in the year at the Rogers Cup where the young Canadian made every tennis fan excited. A straight-sets win over Juan Martin Del Potro was impressive enough, to then come from a set-down to beat world number two Rafael Nadal was when I, along with every other tennis fan started to realise we could have a future star on our hands. He went onto defeat Adrian Mannarino, before bowing out to Alexander Zverev in a semi-final thriller, becoming the youngest player ever to reach a ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final.
Up next, the small matter of the US Open. Shapovalov came through three qualifying rounds to enter the main draw. The youngster continued his stunning form, defeating: Danil Medvedev in round 1, world number eight Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in round two and Britain’s Kyle Edmund in round three. He was the talk of the tournament, who is this guy? Could he go all the way, similarly to Boris Becker winning Wimbledon in 1985 aged just 17. Not quite, Pablo Carreno Busta spoilt the party, beating the Canadian in straight-sets, but what a way to introduce yourself to the big stage.
Shapovalov has made a solid start to the season, and I’d expect him to go strength-to-strength through the grass court season, heading into the US Open ready to take the tournament by storm again. He possesses a very powerful, accurate and punishing backhand, matched with his dominant serve, he has the tools to go very far, very quickly.
The thing that impresses me most about him, is the steely attitude. I’ve watched him a number of times serving under pressure, break points down, and very rarely does he falter.
“Winning points takes talent, winning matches takes character”
That’s a quote I always look back on in tennis. You might be the most talented player in the world, but have you got the bottle to fight when the going gets tough? Can you win the tight sets against the great players? Can you convert a match winning opportunity?
Shapovalov sticks out to me as a genuine star. He has that perfect balance between class and character, which will result in him being a multiple grand slam champion in future years.