May 25, 2024

Open Court


MONTREAL – After only a couple of days at home in Toronto, 18-year-old Denis Shapovalov was back in Montreal Wednesday.

Barely recovered from a tough physical week, he began to prepare for his first attempt to qualify at a Grand Slam tournament.

Shapovalov lost in the first round of qualifying at his first major, at the French Open last May. He was given a wild card into the main draw at Wimbledon.

Then just 16, Shapovalov won the US Open boys’ doubles two years ago with his good pal Félix Auger-Aliassime. Auger-Aliassime was just 15.

Just two years later, both will try to qualify for the men’s singles main draw.

Auger-Aliassime will be unseeded, and rusty after being off the court nearly two months with a wrist injury.

Shapovalov will be brimming with confidence after his career-launching week at the Rogers Cup last week.

On Thursday, Shapovalov and coach/Canadian Davis Cup captain Martin Laurendeau were out on the Grandstand court in Montreal – the sounds of the dismantling of a Masters 1000 event resounding in the background.

Shapovalov back to the grind

They spent considerable time on the volley – specifically the backhand volley.

Shapovalov, always a natural, instinctive volleyer, had some issues with that shot last week in Montreal. And it’s a big part of his game.

“Marty told me from the beginning when I started working with him that it was going to be at least three years until I can really get my volleys going. So every day, every week, we try to put work into it,” Shapovalov said.

Here’s what it looked like.

After the practice, Shapovalov held a press conference for the media in Montreal, pretty much covering the range of changes in his life after last week.

The hunted, not the hunter

He heads to New York likely as the second seed in the qualifying event, which begins next Tuesday.

It will be interesting to see, given the ongoing search tennis fans enjoy for the best new, shiny thing, how much of an impact he has and how many people will come out to see him play.

Also fascinating will be to see how he reacts before a smaller, quieter crowd after being buoyed by the big home-country crowd. And, if he plays an American, how that mightshake out.

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