Israeli-born Jewish Canadian tennis player Denis Shapovalov, 19, of Richmond Hill, Ont. reached the highest ranking of his career at 20th by finishing as a semi-finalist at the two week Miami Open tournament that took place at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami that ended on March 31.
Shapovalov’s semi-final finish at the Miami Open was impressive because he defeated a higher-ranked opponent, (eighth ranked Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece) along with three other opponents before losing to his idol Roger Federer, who went on to win the Miami Open title, in the semi-final round.
Winning many fans at the Miami Open with artistic flair with his one- handed backhand and a powerful left-handed serve and forehand, Shapovalov defeated Daniel Evans of Great Britain 4-6,6-1,6-3, Russian Andrey Rublev 6-3, 7-6 (5), Tsitsipas 4-6,6-3,7-6(3) and American Frances Tiafoe 6-7(5),6-4, 6-2 in the quarter-finals before losing to fourth ranked Federer of Switzerland 6-1,6-4.
“This has been a memorable week for me, reaching a career high ranking, and reminded me of my 2017 Rogers Cup in Montreal when I upset Rafael Nadal to reach the semi-finals. It was a lot of fun to see fans waving Canadian flags over the two weeks that helped me a lot,” said Shapovalov following his semi-final match.
“It was also definitely enjoyable being out there with your idol (Federer) on court and I learned some things from the match to get better in the future.”
“Now that I am ranked in the Top 20, it’s a comforting feeling for me to keep going and hopefully break into the top ten,”said Shapovalov.
Federer had plenty of praise for his opponent after his victory. “I played well. I had to because when you let Denis (Shapovalov) play, he’s got some serious power and he gets his rhythm going. He can really put you in uncomfortable situations.”
“I warmed up with Denis in Toronto at the Rogers Cup when he was 16 and, similar to today, he was hitting big. His serve is also incredible. At 19, Denis is only going to get better as a great shot maker going forward,” said Federer.
Shapovalov was one of five Jewish men and women competing at the Miami Open. None of the other four Jewish players advanced far at the tournament. Diego Schwartzman of Argentina, ranked 24th, was upset in his opening match, as was Camila Giorgi of Italy, ranked 29th, in her opening match. Americans Madison Brengle and Noah Rubin failed to advance past the qualifying rounds.
Along with Shapovalov, the success of Canadian tennis players Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal, who also finished as a semi-finalist at the Miami Open, and Bianca Andresscu of Toronto, who won the women’s pro tournament in California in March, has raised the profile of Canadian tennis players on both the men’s and women’s tournaments over the past two months.
Shapovalov will be competing, as will the other top Canadian players, at the Rogers Cup men’s tournament in Montreal and the women’s tournament in Toronto,both taking place from August 5-12.
Born in Tel Aviv in 1999, Shapovalov’s parents came from the Soviet Union to Israel in the 1990s. His mother Tessa 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 year old, 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 in Vaughan. She taught Denis his powerful one-handed backhand as well as his serve.