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Denis Shapovalov’s journey from hitting the chair umpire to becoming Tennis’ next big hope

Utkarsh Bhatla

Denis Shapovalov

There is a reason we fall in love with ‘golden boys/girls’. For most of us, they make us nostalgic, take us back to the time when we had the zeal to conquer the world. For others, they represent hope, hope that even people unheard of can conquer the world.

Denis Shapovalov’s meteoric rise in the tennis circuit has left everyone dumfounded. A lanky Canadian lad who ‘shot’ to fame for absolutely hammering the chair umpire during a Davis Cup match, has suddenly been touted as the ‘nextgen superstar’.

Having suffered bouts of depression after that horrific incident during the Davis Cup, Shapovalov admitted that it helped him mature as a player and human being. He then revealed that he and the chair umpire(Arnaud Gabas) had become good friends, something that had helped him tremendously while trying to overcome the incident.

“He messages me here and there and I message him,” said Shapovalov.

“He is an extremely nice guy. He has really helped me get through it because he could have been mean about it – but he is a great gentleman, a great guy.” he added.

Shapovalov was devastated after the suspension, guilty of letting his country down and frustrated at having lost his temper in such a crude, crude way.

“I skipped the next tournament. I didn’t want to get out of bed. The first steps were my mum making me walk the dogs – from there on, things started rolling.”

“It has helped me mature as a person. It has helped my game on the court – I stay much more calm, just knowing what could happen if I lose my temper again.”

“It was extremely bad luck for me and for the umpire, I know – but he has been a big part of it.”

“In a strange way we have become good friends.” Shapovalov said.

The incident changed his life, helped him take a step back, evaluate his career, his ambitions and comeback on court with a fresh perspective and purpose. And he just hasn’t looked back since.

Beating Nadal in Montreal was his career’s first real breakthrough, helping him forget the scars of the past and be known round the world for his tennis rather than his antics.

The last week has helped him speed up his tennis career, racing through the initial rounds of the US Open(beating Tsonga in the process) and displaying some scintillating tennis in the process.

The ‘nextgen stars’ list is on the rise, but there is something special about Shapovalov, something so exciting that it makes you want to believe that he will succeed.

Powerful groundstrokes, booming serve, graceful one-handed backhand and the hunger to win; Shapovalov is certainly one for the future.

The fourth round loss too is going to teach him a lot of things. Consistency is one thing missing from his game, and if he can somehow carve it into his arsenal, he can soar new heights(easier said than done though).

This is where the tough part starts though. A lot of tennis players have one great tournament and then a pool of poor results. Adjusting to the sudden fame, working on his game and attitude will be of paramount importance  in the next few months, and if he can do that with conviction, 2018 could be a year to remember for the young man.

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