Eighteen-year-old tennis player Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont. made history at last week’s Rogers Cup tournament in Montreal by being the youngest player ever to make the semifinal round.
Born in Tel Aviv, Shapovalov also became the first Israeli-born player to earn a berth in the Rogers Cup semifinals since Israeli Harel Levy finished as a finalist in the 2000 Rogers Cup in Toronto, then called the Tennis Masters Series Canada.
To achieve his historic milestone, the 143rd ranked Shapovalov upset four higher-ranked players at the tournament.
The most noteworthy of players to lose to Shapovalov was top seeded and world number two Rafael Nadal of Spain, who was defeated 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (4) in the third round.
Shapovalov also upset 64th ranked Rogerio Dultra Silva of Brazil 4-6, 7-6 (8), 6-4, former US Open champion Juan Martin del Porto of Argentina 6-4, 7-6 (4) and 42nd ranked Adrian Mannarino of France 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 in the quarter-final round.
His winning streak ended in the semifinals as Shapovolov lost to the fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev of Germany 6-4, 7-5
“I had my best week of tennis in my career, defeating so many players like Nadal, who are idols of mine growing up,” said Shapovalov.
Shapovalov earned enough ranking points at the Rogers Cup to escalate into a 66 ranking this week on the men’s pro tennis circuit.
“The Rogers Cup changed the life of Denis Shapovalov, who has become a major tennis player to be reckoned with on the pro tour,” said tennis commentator Jimmy Arias of Sportsnet cable network, which televised nationally each of Shapovalov’s matches at the Rogers Cup..
The 5-foot 10-inch Shapovalov had the benefit of 10,000 plus fans rooting him on in each of his matches. His flair for serving aces with a powerful left serve helped him at crucial points in his matches.
“There is no doubt that the crowd helped me pull out wins this week. The fans gave me confidence, which boosted my belief that I can compete with the best of the players in tennis,” said Shapovalov.
Shapovalov’s parents moved to Israel from the Soviet Union in the 1990s. His mother Tessa Shapovolova, who is Jewish, wanted to immigrate to Israel, despite being an elite tennis player from the Soviet Union.
“Although my husband Viktor (and father of Denis) is Greek Orthodox and not Jewish, he was just as eager as I was to go to Israel,” said Tessa Shapovalova.
Shapovalova competed in tennis tournaments in Israel and also coached Israeli youngsters while she was there. Along with Denis, his older brother Evgeniy was born in Israel as well.
“We decided to move to Toronto, before Denis was one because it was too dangerous to continue living in Israel,” said Shapovalova.
Shapovalova taught tennis for 10 years at the Richmond Hill Tennis Club before opening her own academy, Tessa Tennis in Vaughan. She taught Denis his powerful one-handed backhand, that along with his powerful serve, generated enthusiasm for his fans in Montreal.
“This will be a week that I will remember for the rest of my life,” said Shapovalov.