November 24, 2023

Open Court


As they say, Denis Shapovalov is finally off the schneid.

After a week off the match court, the Canadian returned a retooled player in his first career appearance at the Madrid Open Sunday.

The 19-year-old stifled American Tennys Sandgren 6-1, 6-4 in less than hour in his first-round match.

It was a comprehensive victory that didn’t feel nearly as close as that score.

The first set took just 18 minutes.

Sandgren won just nine points – just two on Shapovalov’s serve. He hit zero winners to Shapovalov’s 11.

If he didn’t get off to the greatest start – at 26, this also was the American’s Madrid debut – Shapovalov didn’t give him the slightest opportunity to change the narrative.

Sandgren got off to a slow start – in large part due to how well his opponent was playing. And once Shapovalov had the head of steam, he never let up. (Screenshot:

Shapovalov was a little less stingy in the second set: he gave Sandgren four points, out of 24. 

Fast and furious in Madrid

The conditions in Madrid, it turns out, were the perfect antidote.

Shapovalov’s first career ATP clay-court campaign began with a first-round loss  in Monte Carlo to Stefanos Tsitsipas.

We now know, Tsitsipas is having a breakout moment. But we didn’t know it then. The two only had some French Open junior history on clay. And in that match, Shapovalov was the easy winner in part because his fellow 17-year-old likely had played far too much tennis coming into that event.

Shapovalov’s first career win at the ATP Tour level on clay was an impressive one. (Screenshot:

Shapovalov’s second clay-court effort this spring was an impatient, straight-set defeat at the hands of Nikoloz Basilashvili of Georgia.

In Shapovalov’s defense, Basilashvili was already playing his eighth match of the spring on his preferred clay. But the Canadian kid did not impress.

The Madrid courts are fast. The slight altitude (nearly 2,200 feet, enough to make a noticeable difference) gives his serve that extra pop. 

And with that increased confidence on his lefty delivery came added faith in everything else. Shapovalov volleyed beautifully. He was patient when he needed to be. He was calm. In short, he looked comfortable for the first time this spring.

Next up, a Frenchman

Shapovalov’s second-round opponent will be the winner of an all-French clash between No. 15 seed Lucas Pouille and Benoit Paire.

That will take place Monday.

Pouille comes into Madrid winless on the clay as well. In fact, he hasn’t won an ATP Tour match since Dubai in February, although he did pull off a pair of singles wins against Italy in Davis Cup, on clay, on Genoa last month.

He’s 3-0 against Paire at the ATP level. And Paire has just one victory in three clay-court tournaments so far. 

It’s not just the clay that is a new experience for Shapovalov. It’s the opponents, as well. He had never played Sandgren. He has never played either Pouille or Paire. Every match is a learning experience.

Mom in charge

Mom/coach Tessa Shapovalova’s shorter ‘do almost makes her twinsies with her son. All she needs is the backwards ball cap with the hanging tab. (Screenshot:

Notably absent from the supporters’ box in Madrid was Shapovalov’s coach, Martin Laurendeau.

So mother Tessa (her new, shorter ‘do kind of channels her son’s long locks, doesn’t it?) has been in the coaching chair both during last week’s training week, and this week.

Laurendeau, was told, is expected back for next week’s Masters 1000 tournament in Rome.

Shapovalov also is entered in the Geneva event the week before the French Open.

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