It’s been quite a month for Denis Shapovalov.
After winning the Wimbledon Junior Championship earlier this month, the 17-year-old Canadian won his first ATP World Tour match on Monday night in Toronto, defeating world No. 19 Nick Kyrgios 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-3 in first round action of the Rogers Cup.
Playing at his home town tournament, Shapovalov, ranked 370th in the world and a wild card entry at the tournament, fought off some early nerves, coming back from 40-0 to win the first game.
“I thought I played some pretty good points and he just played it even better the first three points,” said Shapovalov.
“That was a pretty big game. It kind of set the tone of the match. I held my serve pretty easy from there on. That first game was critical.”
While the opening set ultimately went to a tie break – which Shapovalov won 7-2 – the Richmond Hill, Ontario native never trailed to win the first set.
Kyrgios went up 2-0 in the second set only to have Shapovalov storm back and tie it at 2-2. The Aussie recovered this time though, winning 6-3 to tie the match at 1-1.
Kyrgios’ service game continued to struggle in the third set, allowing Shapovalov to take a quick 3-0 lead and then a 4-1 advantage. Even after the Aussie gained some momentum, the young Canadian seemed to feed off a loud home crowd, taking a 5-3 lead. After Kyrgios went up 30-0 in the final game, Shapovalov fought back again to win the match point.
“It’s tough playing the first time on Centre Court,” said Shapovalov, who was pumping his fist throughout the evening. “By the end of the match I felt like the crowd really liked it when I was getting pumped up. They were asking for it. They were cheering me on and I think that’s why I did it.”
Shapovalov made his ATP World Tour debut earlier this month, losing his first match of the Citi Open in Washington, DC.
Kyrgios expects more good things to come from Shapovalov.
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“I think he’s a great player,” said a disappointed Kyrgios. “Obviously he’s won a lot of matches over the past couple months. He’s coming off one of the best results of his career and you know he’s got a great future. I’m looking to forward to watching him progress into the seniors and transition. He’s a top player.”
The win moves Shapovalov into the second round of the Rogers Cup where he’ll face Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria. Canadian Milos Raonic has a bye through to the second round.
It was a big day for Canada in Toronto. Along with Shapovalov’s upset win, Peter Polansky defeated Tim Smyczek of the United States 4-6, 6-3, 6-0 and Steven Diez beat Great Britain’s Kyle Edmund 3-6, 6-3, 6-2, earning each spots in the second round.
“It’s a huge day and I’m very happy that Peter and Steven pulled it through together with me. I wish them the best in the next matches,” said Shapovalov.
Vasek Pospisil, who will represent Canada in men’s singles and doubles at Rio 2016, will make his 2016 Toronto debut on Tuesday, facing France’s Jeremy Chardy. Pospisil will also play doubles this week, teaming up with his Rio partner, Daniel Nestor.
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On the women’s side in Montreal, Team Canada’s Eugenie Bouchard will take on Lucie Safarova of the Czech Republic in round one action on Tuesday. Canadians Aleksandra Wozniak and Francoise Abanda are also awaiting first round play.
Bouchard will compete with Canadian Carol Zhao in doubles at the Rogers Cup. Gabriela Dabrowski, who will partner with Bouchard in Rio, was eliminated from doubles play on Monday with Russian partner Alla Kudryavtseva, falling 6-3, 6-2 to Romania’s Simona Halep and Monica Niculescu.
World No. 1 shows off hockey skills
Novak Djokovic took to Centre Court at Toronto’s Aviva Centre on Sunday – but he didn’t have a tennis racket in his hand.
Carrying a hockey stick, Djokovic was given a loud applause when he stepped onto the court to take part in a celebrity ball hockey game.
“It was not an ice rink so it allowed me – and a I think all of the tennis players – to move around freely,” said the Serbian star. “For me it was a unique experience because it was the first time I’ve ever played ice hockey – ice rink or not.”
A part of the weekend festivities of the 2016 Rogers Cup, the game featured Canadian NHL stars Connor McDavid, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza and several others playing alongside tennis players and media members.
Djokovic joined the game late and, to warm up, was given three shootout attempts, scoring on his final chance.
“They put me on the spot right away. It was a lot of pressure. But I enjoyed it. I really did. You don’t get these opportunities very often so I tried to get the best out of it.”
Djokovic is the top seed at this week’s Rogers Cup, with his first match scheduled for Wednesday against Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller. The 29-year-old is coming off a disappointing Wimbledon where he was eliminated in the third round.