June 12, 2024

Open Court


ROLAND GARROS – Denis Shapovalov hasn’t played since losing a crusher in his opener in Madrid – a 7-6 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (1) defeat at the hands of China’s Zheng Zhizhen.

He withdrew from both Rome and Geneva, citing an ongoing knee issue.

But he’s back in Paris. And there’s a new coach on the bag.

His name is Matt Daly. He’s a 44-year-old American who played collegiately at Notre Dame and on the pro Futures circuit for a few years, after graduating with a degree in finance.

Daly works with Brian Barker – the longtime coach of former top-five player James Blake – at the Tennis Club of Trumbull in Connecticut. He has been on tour with ATP and WTA players for short periods of time in the past, and we’re told that a lot of players quietly make the trip to Trumbull for Barker and Daly’s counsel but, because of family, Daly hasn’t been a full-time touring coach.

His Facebook page says he’s “worked with a number of ATP top-100 players on grip changes” with a device called “Grip MD“, developed by Daly and former pro Mark Merklein.

Daly’s arrival – although we don’t know if it’s a trial, a short-term thing or a permanent hire – signals the end of Shapovalov’s time with Peter Polansky – a relationship which ended amicably, if abruptly.

Despite all of the armchair coaches knowing exactly what Shapovalov needs to “do” to get back to his best form, it remains to be seen if Daly is the voice that he will listen to and connect with.

(It was not easy to track down Daly’s name. Several sources said he looked SO familiar, but couldn’t quite come up with it – that was the impression we got as well. But in the end, one well-connected coach did come through. So he’s a low-profile guy, but we’re told he’s a top-class individual).

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Not in great spirits

Here’s what Shapovalov looked like on faraway Court 16 Friday (not even thick brush and bugs galore can stop your dedicated Open Court servant from getting the money shots).

At the same time as he was practicing, his better half Mirjam Bjorklund was playing her final round of qualifying against Denmark’s Clara Tauson. So he was checking up on that as well; Shapovalov is an absolute prince at being courtside to support her whenever it’s possible.

(As he was wrapping up, she was about to win the second set in a tiebreak; she ended up going out 6-2 in the third).

He looked … a little annoyed and somewhat frustrated. At the same time, he didn’t look hampered by his knee.

First up: Brandon Nakashima

As the No. 26 seed, Shapovalov got a decent first-round draw against American Brandon Nakashima.

His potential second round, if he can get past Nakashima, looks promising as well.

After that, well … let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. Don’t even look.

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