British Wimbledon favourite Andy Murray will have to be at his very best on Friday as he takes on Canada’s Denis Shapovalov, 22, on Centre Court for a place in the fourth round.
Speaking on Thursday, Shapovalov – the No 10 seed at this year’s tournament and the world No 15 – described the upcoming Day Five encounter as: “Definitely a match I grew up wanting to play against Andy in the spotlight like this. So it’s definitely a match I’m looking forward to.”
The challenger faces the former Wimbledon winner having had two days of rest after Spain’s Pablo Andujar pulled out of their second round tie with a bad rib, while Murray – who has struggled with injuries himself of late – was taken to five sets by Germany’s Oscar Otte.
Of the partisan crowd he is sure to face, the Canadian said: “He’s playing at home, and two-time champion here. So for sure it’s expected.”
Shapovalov was also full of praise for his opponent, saying: “I’ve watched a little bit, definitely watched his match yesterday. And honestly just as a tennis fan, it was fun to watch. A fan of Andy’s, to see him back and moving so well, especially those last two sets, how he turned it around. It felt like he was the player that he was a couple years back. It was really exciting to see.
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“Obviously he’s got all that experience and he seems to be in really good shape. It’s definitely an exciting match. It’s going to be an exciting moment.”
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.”