Wimbledon, England – When she coached him in Toronto as a child, Tessa Shapovalova told her young son not to pay attention to his head when he went to the net. Someday, he said, it would be long enough to reach them.
Denis Shapovalov said on Wednesday, “From a young age I was never the kind of player who would sit back and wait for my opponent’s mistakes.” “I’ve always wanted to be the dictator. I was always coming into the nets from the age of 10, 12, lobbing back in there, losing points.
“My mom always told me: ‘Later, you’re going to grow up, and it’s going to be an advantage for you. It’s something that’s yours. You have to keep and maintain it for the future.'”
Shapovalov, 22, has reached his first semi-final at a Grand Slam tournament at Wimbledon, where he will take on Novak Djokovic on Friday, hoping to become the first Canadian man to reach the final since 2016.
“It was great that he had that vision for my playing years,” said Shapovalov, who is still coached by his mother. “It’s something that, like I said, I’ve always had.”
On the grass court, which rewards assertive play more than any other surface, Shapovalov has been winning race after rally, round by round.
Despite playing one less match than the other three, he has struck 214 winners, the most among the four semi-finalists.
In his first-round victory, he struck 58 winners in 30 of Philipp Kollschreiber. After receiving a second-round walkover from Pablo Andozer, he courted two-time Wimbledon champion Andy Murray in the third round, winning 45. For 16 of the undead. In his fourth-round victory, Shapovalov struck 52 winners against Roberto Bautista Agut’s 14.
“I played against a really good version of Dennis,” said eighth seed Bautista Agut. “I think he played very well. He was hitting very hard. He was serving well.”
As Bautista Agut has indicated, there have been fewer versions of Shapovalov over the years; Shapovalov has also hit the most unforced errors of the remaining men at Wimbledon with 170.
When he was 18, Shapovalov made a stellar arrival on the tour, defeating top seed Rafael Nadal at the 2017 Montreal Masters, electrifying the crowd of a night session that included Wayne Gretzky on the front line. But in the intervening years, the results haven’t always been applicable to Shapovalov and his free hand, and he is forced to work to rein in his power.
“Maybe sometimes I get a little too wild, and I don’t earn opponents big points,” Shapovalov said. “I’ve been a little more conservative, actually, this tournament.”
Shapovalov’s more cautious game did not serve him well in Wednesday’s quarterfinal against Karen Khachanov: he lost the second and third sets.
“I knew that in the fourth and fifth, I would have to direct myself and be aggressive,” said Shapovalov. “Otherwise, he was going to win the match. It comes quite naturally to me. I have always been an aggressive player. I always wanted to go for the shots. It’s actually another way I had to learn to take a step back and put more pressure on the opponents, which made them score points.”
He added: “Sometimes it helps to come naturally to me, especially in a match like today when the opponent is playing so well and he’s not giving you anything. You have to kind of go and take it for yourself. “
Shapovalov finally took it for himself, beating the prevailing, 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4, 59 winners to Khachanov’s 31.
“I feel like my game is just raised,” Shapovalov said. “It’s something to be super, very proud of myself for.”
In the defeat Khachanov admitted that Shapovalov “went more for it” at critical moments.
“It’s his type of game – he’s like this,” Khachanov said. “He also makes a lot of unexpected mistakes, but that’s why I think he’s a tough player to play because, especially on the grass, when he pulls the trigger, he can make it. Sometimes- You never expect where to run.”
Shapovalov will need to penetrate Djokovic’s strong defence, to go one more round. Shapovalov is 0-6 against them, but the two have never played on grass.
Djokovic said, ‘You don’t get many chances on his service game, especially here on the grass.
“I’m sure it will be the biggest Test ever in the tournament, which is also expected – it’s the semi-finals,” Djokovic said. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a fight and I need to do my best.”