Shapovalov goes 2-5 on European clay
Denis Shapovalov had a good 2018 clay season leading up to Roland Garros, going deep in events before losing to Sascha Zverev in Madrid and Rafael Nadal in Rome.
But he won only two matches on clay in 2019, party due to tough scheduling such as facing Novak Djokovic in Rome. But he also lost to lower-ranked players: Cristian Garin in Barcelona, his buddy Felix Auger-Aliassime in Madrid, Benoit Paire in Lyon and Jan Lennard Struff (ranked 45th) in Monte Carlo and Paris.
It’s also the way he lost. He blew a 3-0 first set lead to Struff. He double-faulted on key points. He made far too many unforced errors on his stronger forehand side, and he continues to struggle with volleys and backhand returns.
He remained positive in pressers, saying he’s good at forgetting and bouncing back. These are the qualities of champions. But for now, he’s going to have to work hard to improve more quickly to keep up with opponents who’ve had two years to study his game at the ATP world tour level and exploit his weaknesses.
He doesn’t have many points to defend, because he only won two matches on grass last year, over Jared Donaldson in Eastbourne and Jeremy Chardy at Wimbledon. He’ll have to raise his game to defend more points on hardcourt, where last year he reached the round of 16 in Washington, Toronto and Cincinnati before beating Auger-Aliassime and Andrea Seppi at the US Open.
He’s still only 20, and he seems to have escaped the plague of injuries riddling other Canadian players. Much will depend on how well he can improve over coming months and years.
(Christopher Johnson took these copyrighted photos of Shapovalov in the rain of Roland Garros last year. Copyright Globalite Media all rights reserved.)
(images copyright Christopher Johnson Globalite Media all rights reserved)