March 20, 2023

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

Exclusive: Rusedski to join Team Shapovalov?

INDIAN WELLS, Calif. – Everyone seems to have an opinion on the state of Denis Shapovalov’s career these days.

Most of those opinions, of course, are mean-spirited, destructive rather than constructive in intent. It’s not as though the 23-year-old Canadian doesn’t KNOW he’s going through a rough patch in his career.

To that end, Open Court had gotten wind that Greg Rusedski, the Canadian-turned-Brit who reached No. 4 in the world, might be in the mix to come in as a consultant – an extra pair of eyes to see if he can help his fellow lefty turn it around.

We don’t know if that will happen. But we spotted Shapovalov, coach Peter Polansky and Rusedski, who is primarily a television analyst these days but does have extensive coaching experience at the grassroots level, deep in discussion Tuesday afternoon.

Did we mention Rusedski is a lefty? That’s certainly a point of commonality (and, of course, he was a Canadian long before he was a Brit – and one who definitely went his own way on a parallel track to Tennis Canada).

And in the “consulting coach” vernacular that dictates such a addition has to “have been there at the highest level”, he certainly qualifies.

Since mother Tessa stopped being his “main” coach, Shapovalov has experimented with a few different people around him, trying to find the right fit and the right balance between supportive and stern.

He’s opted to stay in a bit of a comfort bubble. At the same time, he’s a player so gifted that it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. When everything is firing he can beat anyone in the world. When it’s not, he can  lose to a lot of players. And he has, lately. And blown quite a few leads.

Clearly, at this point, the losses are snowballing a little bit. So it’s good to at least explore a different voice.

At the same time, it’s not, as many posit, a matter of finding an “experienced coach” to “straighten him out”. Tell him what? To make more balls, get the ball in the court more often?

Everyone on social media can, and does, tell him that. For free. (He probably already knows this).

By the end of his opening loss to Ugo Humbert earlier this week in the desert, Shapovalov had (politely) asked his team to leave the box. He had announced his impending retirement (likely he wasn’t serious), crushed a racquet and brought all the drama.

He still, however, is in the doubles here in the desert with Félix Auger-Aliassime.

Let’s see what the next chapter brings.

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