Denis Shapovalov: Profile, ranking and recent results of Canadian tennis player facing Novak Djokovic

Tournament’s No 10 seed has already seen off two-time British winner Andy Murray but faces toughest challenge yet

Joe Sommerlad
Friday 09 July 2021 17:06
Wimbledon in numbers

Wimbledon front-runner Novak Djokovic will have to be at his imperious best on Friday afternoon as he takes on Canada’s up-and-coming Denis Shapovalov on Centre Court for a place in Sunday’s final.

The 22-year-old challenger faces the serial Wimbledon winner after seeing off British favourite Andy Murray and Russia’s Karen Khachanov en route to the semi and is likely to be in confident mood.

Although Shapovalov has lost all six of his previous matches against Djokovic, this will be their first encounter on grass.

“It’s nothing I’m really thinking about too much,” the Canadian said of the prospect after his quarter-final win. “When you walk out on that match, it’s 0-0. That’s it. It’s a tennis match at the end of the day. Experience, this, that, it comes down to that moment and who’s playing the best.”

But Djokovic, 34, has already won the Australian and French Open this year, adding to a trophy cabinet already overcrowded with the 17 other men’s Grand Slams he has picked up over the course of an illustrious career that has seen him win no fewer than 84 ATP singles titles overall.

Shapovalov was born in Tel Aviv on 15 April 1999, his parents Viktor and Tessa Shapovalova Russian citizens who moved to Israel with the collapse of the Soviet Union. His mother actually represented the USSR national tennis team once upon a time and is now her son’s coach, along with former world No 8 Mikhail Youzhny.

The family then relocated to Toronto, Canada, when Shapovalov was nine months old and he was raised in Vaughan, Ontario, playing tennis from the age of five at the Richmond Hill Country Club, where his mother was giving lessons (later opening an academy of her own).

The young Shapovalov regularly attended the Rogers Cup in Ontario and as an eight-year-old had the chance to get the autograph of his favourite player, Roger Federer, only for the Swiss to smile and walk away after failing to notice him, leaving the boy in tears.

Receiving additional coaching from Adriano Fuorivia when he hit his teens, Shapovalov won the 2015 US Open Junior Doubles title and the 2016 Wimbledon Junior Singles title, also catching the eye that year by knocking world No 19 Nick Kyrgios out of the Rogers Cup.

He turned pro in 2017 and, at 18, became the world’s youngest top 50 player since Rafael Nadal, whose poster he reportedly ripped off the wall of doubles partner Felix Auger-Aliassime’s Montreal apartment before beating the Spaniard in the third round at that year’s Rogers Cup en route to the semi-finals, also beating Grand Slam winner Juan Martin del Potro as part of that run.

Shapovalov subsequently reached the final of the 2019 Rolex Paris Masters and three more Masters semi-finals: the 2018 Madrid Open, the 2019 Miami Open and the 2020 Italian Open.

More firsts followed when he became the first Canadian to reach the quarter-finals of the US Open in 2020 and the second in history to break into the world top 10, behind Milos Raonic.

The ATP Tour’s website, always a mine of extraordinary information, tells us Shapovalov loves Nintendo Switch and enjoys playing Skyrim and Mario Kart, dreams of taking to the ice with the Toronto Maple Leafs or playing basketball for the Toronto Raptors and released two hip-hop singles last year, entitled “Night Train” and “Drip.”

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