He won’t be alone – many top players, including Rafael Nadal (who announced it on Thursday) will be taking a pass on the Olympics in late July.
But 22-year-old Denis Shapovalov, the highest-ranked Canadian man, will not be going to Tokyo.
“It was definitely a difficult choice. Obviously, I have always dreamt of representing Canada, representing my country at the Olympics. It’s something I think every every athlete dreams about growing up – and especially me. I’ve always I’ve always wanted to go,” Shapovalov told Open Court after his emphatic 6-2, 6-3 victory over defending Queen’s Club champion Feliciano Lopez Thursday.
“With the COVID restrictions and everything going on right now, we just decided with the team that it’s just best for us to skip this one. But for sure, it’s definitely a big pity,” he added.
Hi everybody,— Dominic Thiem (@ThiemDomi) June 17, 2021
I have some sad news to share with you all. After talking with my team and analysing the situation I have taken the very difficult decision to withdraw from competing in the Tokyo Olympics.
Managing the shoulder in play
Shapovalov has been managing a shoulder issue all season. And while there have been many periods where it’s been just fine, the Wimbledon –> Tokyo –> North American summer hard-court season period is extremely dense.
“That’s obviously in play. I mean, it’s the shoulder’s kind of a recurring thing. So I don’t want to play too, too much and put too much stress on it. And for sure, it’s something that I’m constantly having to go back to my team with and discuss, like we did for the French Open,” he said. “We decided we really want to have a good grass-court season.”
Not having to travel to Japan, there are weeks available to play with. And – barring a great run at Wimbledon, which is always a possibility – he’s set up to go back on the clay for a few weeks, in Bastad, Sweden and Gstaad, Switzerland.
There is a lot more flexibility to withdraw from those events – if there’s too much tennis, or if the shoulder is acting up. The Tokyo commitment is significantly more rigid, and the full experience much more demanding with the meat of Shapovalov’s season coming up.
As well, they are 28-player draws, requiring only four matches to win and typically with Thursday starts. The Olympic tennis event is as packed as a Masters 1000, with as many as six matches over the week and significant additional travel and restrictions.
And because of those, it will be a long way from the “full Olympic experience” most players dream of. Socializing with the elite athletes from around the world, going to other venues to cheer on fellow Canadian athletes and friends – all of that appears to be significantly curtailed.
After eight months of bubble life and hotel isolation, the attractions aren’t what they normally would be. And so it’s not a surprise that a lot of players are considering skipping it.
That, and the expected brutally hot weather.
Paris Games just three years away
If Shapovalov wasn’t ranked high enough to play the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, he’s still so young that he could have as many as three more opportunities to carry the flag at the Games.
Health permitting, of course
“Paris (in 2024) is not too far away. And I’ll definitely love to compete in that one,” he said.
Uneven number for doubles
While it appears that Félix Auger-Aliassime, Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil will make the cut in singles, that leaves an uneven number for men’s doubles.
It also means one less option for the mixed doubles, which is going to be a very tough tournament to get into with only a 16-team draw.
Auger-Aliassime said earlier this week in Halle that he didn’t know what would happen because of that. He might play singles and mixed doubles, but not men’s doubles.
But there’s a way to go before those issues are settled.
These are (unfortunately for the players, sometimes) often “Tennis Canada committee” decisions.