Jan/18

10

Have they solved the Shapovalov puzzle?

Denis Shapovalov

By Scoop Malinowski

Denis Shapovalov took the ATP by storm last year, by posting shocking wins against Nadal and Del Potro in Montreal and his surreal US Open run all the way to the round of 16 as a qualifer.

But since entering the top 50 last September, the eighteen year old has struggled.

After the US Open, Shapovalov posted two Davis Cup wins vs India (beating Bhambri in five sets and Ramanathan in three).

Then at Shanghai he lost his first match to Triocki 76 36 06.

In Antwerp he lost his first match to Escobedo 67 46.

In Basel, the Canadian lefty managed to beat Sugita 76 in the third but then he lost next round to Mannarino 64 16 26.

At Paris Indoors he lost his first match to Benneteau 46 46.

In the final event of 2017 in Milan at the NEXT GEN Finals, he lost to Rublev and Chung and beat Quinzi in the round robin.

This year, Shapovalov has lost first round at both of his events to Del Potro yesterday in Sydney and 76 67 46 to Edmund in Brisbane.

So since the US Open and the Davis Cup tie vs India, Shapovalov has a 2-8 record.

Yes, there were a lot of narrow, tight losses in those eight defeats but the pattern is becoming evident. Shapovalov, the boy wonder last September, is now mired in a deep slump and has lost his winning touch.

Winning two out of ten matches is cause for concern. And you have to wonder if the other ATP players have conspired to figure out how to offset the explosive six-foot southpaw? Or has the pressure, media attention and great expectations – by himself and the public – jangled his nerves and ability to hit and play freely without fear or worry?

As the losses continue to mount, the questions and concerns will snowball.

Shapovalov’s coach Martin Laurendeau currently doesn’t seem to have the answers. And if Laurendeau wants to stay for the ride much longer, he better come up with some solutions. Sooner than later.

Wondering if Marat Safin, Boris Becker or Thomas Muster would be interested by an offer to coach young Shapovalov?

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67 comments

  • Hartt · January 10, 2018 at 10:45 am

    Scoop, first of all, Shapo won his first round match in Auckland, he had a SS win over Dutra Silva. I saw the highlights and Denis was at the top of his game. He said he thought he’d played the perfect match and he was not far off. The NZ press used words like “sublime” and said he “rocked the place.”

    His results are not a surprise – youngsters aren’t known for their consistency, they are still learning their craft.

    I did stay up until 1:00 am to see the match against Delpo. Denis showed moments of brilliance and also periods of poor play. One good sign was he was very successful at the net. Delpo, experienced pro that he is, was steady throughout the match. I had expected that Delpo would win, given how well he played at the end of last season. Denis was somewhat unlucky to run up against a top player in the 2nd round. He had to play his very best to hope to win, and he was not at his best last night.

    But this is way too early to sound the alarm bells. He was playing Futures and Challengers this time last year. Just playing on the main tour is a big step forward. And I think Martin Laurendeau is the kind of coach he needs right now, someone who will put in the day-to-day work of teaching the youngster. When Denis has mastered his game will be time enough for a super coach.

  • Hartt · January 10, 2018 at 10:49 am

    I had meant to add that Denis’ inexperience showed when he insisted on playing against Troicki last fall. He was ill, had been in bed, and his team advised him not to play but he did not want to disappoint the fans. It is amazing that he won a set, but he had no energy whatsoever in the third, and could not win a game. Hopefully, in the future he will understand when it is necessary to withdraw from a match.

  • Chazz · January 10, 2018 at 11:39 am

    It can easier for some players to be the hunter than the hunted (see Kerber!). You actually see this in a lot of different sports.

    He’s 3-7 in his last 10 matches if you include the Next Gen Finals. He has too much pure talent though and you have to expect he’ll adjust.

  • catherine · January 10, 2018 at 2:33 pm

    Off topic – Gavrilova gets a W/O v Muguruza in Sydney. Garbine really is one of the most injured players in WTA. She seems excessively fragile. Don’t know if this just safety first before AO. I watched some of her match v Bertens and Garbine was coming into the net quite a lot but her general movement was not good.

    You wonder about her training regime – she’s had a couple of months off and comes back hurt. Maybe she could have a talk with Kerber about how to get fit. Really should sort this out or she’ll be gone as a contender.

  • catherine · January 10, 2018 at 2:52 pm

    It’s frustrating. I was looking forward to another episode of Kerber/Muguruza – and now it seems Sydney is Angie’s for the taking.

    A rivalry very likely nipped in the bud, like so many in the women’s game.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 10, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Hartt, thanks for the correction, I forgot Denis beat Silva. But still 3-8 is not good and it's not what we expected after the US Open run of six wins in a row. Melbourne will tell us a lot about where Denis is and where his confidence is. Right now it's safe to say he's struggling.

  • Andrew Miller · January 10, 2018 at 6:59 pm

    Shapovalov is Brad Klahn. Sort of. Crafty vets are crafty, gotta earn the keep out there. Players like Mannarino love getting the W on Shapo and next Gen players. Once Klahn broke through everyone threw the kitchen sink at him. Tour is tough.

  • El Dude · January 10, 2018 at 7:10 pm

    Haha, the Master of Hyperbole strikes again. Scoop, the kid is 18. I watched his match against Rublev at the Milan tournament and saw enough to be very optimistic about his future. The kid is going to be great.

    Tennis players evolve like just about everything else: two steps forward, one step back, pause, one step forward, a step back, stagnation, a big leap forward, etc. In other words, a messy and non-linear affair. And every player develops differently.

    My guess is that Shapo is going to consolidate in the top 100 this year, maybe continue struggling a bit, and then take a big leap forward to the top 20 either later this year or early next. But to expect that he would just continue his meteoric rise from last year is unrealistic – especially at 18.

    Players need to consolidate at the different "stations" of the game. It is very rare that a player just blasts through each station or level without taking time to consolidate and master it. The first station is the Futures, then its the Challengers and Slam qualifications, then there's a big leap into being a regular in the top 100 and direct entry into Slams, then there's another big leap to the top 30-40 range when you start becoming seeded, then the top 20, then the top 10, top 5, and number one.

    Sometimes players jump one station or stage per year, sometimes two, sometimes they stall out. But there's no reason to worry about Shapo. Yet. He could end this year ranked #80 and I wouldn't be too worried. A tad, maybe, but I'd give him the benefit of the doubt and see how he did next year. Pete Sampras finished one year #97, then the next #81…consolidation. Or look at Rafa at #49 and then #51 (I think injury was involved, but that's part of the process). It happens.

    Of course the worry is Borna Coric. That's a case where a player seems to max out quickly. Borna can still develop, but clearly his ceiling is a bit lower than hoped for a couple years ago. I see Shapo being a more talented and dynamic player – a future elite, imo.

  • GameSetAndMath · January 10, 2018 at 10:18 pm

    The figuring out business happened to JJ. Everybody quickly realized that JJ can hit dropshots from anywhere in the court.
    So, it became a non-surprise. After that Wimbledon run he has become a non-factor.

    With Denis (even though he may be losing – mostly due to enjoying the limelight) it is difficult to say that opponents have
    worked out a way to beat him.

    I am projecting Shapo to be in Top 32 by the end of the year.

  • catherine · January 11, 2018 at 1:06 am

    Sydney note

    Muguruza said, re playing aggressively, going to the net, that she was shortening points to help her injury. She is good at the net so, while it lasted that was a winning strategy.

    Women players should be injured more often, to uncover their hidden volleying skills :)

  • Duke Carnoustie · January 11, 2018 at 2:33 am

    I have made some crazy picks in the past but I may have to go out on a limb and pick the No. 14 seed in the men’s draw and the No. 21 seed in the women’s draw in Melbourne!

    Also I probably missed it but when did Kuznetsova withdraw?

  • Duke Carnoustie · January 11, 2018 at 2:42 am

    How about Taylor Fritz ending Sam Groth’s career in a third-set TB? That has to sting. Also Michael Mmoh is already on his way home.

  • catherine · January 11, 2018 at 3:23 am

    Duke – so Kerber’s going into AO as the favourite ? Who saw that coming ?

    She’ll get there as a player unbeaten in singles since the New Year but the competition is going to be tougher, and the pressure.
    Myself, I’d rather see Angie in another W’don final but it’s going to be an interesting time in Melbourne.
    No predictions.

    Djokovic is a real dark horse. That should help him – no one’s seen him play yet. Not seriously.

    Kuznetsova did withdrew but I can’t remember why – injury I suppose.

  • Chazz · January 11, 2018 at 8:34 am

    Looking at the early matchups:

    -Shapo-Tsitsipas in R1? Wow! Then the winner gets Tsonga.
    -K.Anderson-Edmund in R1
    -Nishioka-Kohlschreiber
    -Sock-Sugita (too funny, he withdrew against Sugita last week)
    -Djokovic-D.Young, then winner gets Monfils
    -Donaldson-Ramos-Vinolas
    -I love the Berdych-deMinaur matchup
    -Tiafoe gets stuck again in R1 of a slam, this time it’s del Potro

    There are some great matchups. If I was filling out a bracket I would have a lot of trouble.

  • Chazz · January 11, 2018 at 8:35 am

    I’ll try this again:

    -Shapo-Tsitsipas in R1? Wow! Then the winner gets Tsonga.

    -K.Anderson-Edmund in R1

    -Nishioka-Kohlschreiber

    -Sock-Sugita (too funny, he withdrew against Sugita last week)

    -Djokovic-D.Young, then winner gets Monfils

    -Donaldson-Ramos-Vinolas

    -I love the Berdych-deMinaur matchup

    -Tiafoe gets stuck again in R1 of a slam, this time it’s del Potro

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 11, 2018 at 8:58 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    I don't think Nadal or Fed or Djokovic ever had 3-8 slumps in their early ATP years. Although in Facing Federer, Tignor told me he interviewed Fed early in his pro career in 98 or 99 and Fed was really down in confidence at the time from losing matches and he even admitted sarcastically about even having a pro career. I will look up Fed's early results for a 3-8 streak.

  • catherine · January 11, 2018 at 10:06 am

    WTA Sydney looks like a Barty/Kerber final if everything goes to plan. Which is most likely the organisers preferred match. Radwanska’s slump continues – out 1-6 2-6 to Giorgi.

    Of course it could be Gavrilova v Giorgi but I don’t think so. Angie will cut short Giorgi’s mini-surge.

  • Shivashish Sarkar · January 11, 2018 at 10:14 am

    I think every player is unique and could possibly have a unique career path. When I watch Shapovalov, I see raw talent. If he stays on track of development, and imbibes the right elements which are missing in his game, then he will get better.

    Who's in his team?

  • Wimbledonerer · January 11, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    Federer definitely had some streaks like that.You can find them here-
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Federer's_early_career#All_matches

  • catherine · January 11, 2018 at 12:58 pm

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/tennis/2018/01/10/special-report-mental-health-issues-tennis-not-top-50-face-constant/

    This is the 2nd article – I missed the first.I’ll look out for the 3rd which is about social media.

  • catherine · January 11, 2018 at 1:00 pm

  • El Dude · January 11, 2018 at 1:12 pm

    First of all, we shouldn't use Roger, Rafa, and Novak as the standard against which all young players are compared. Those are probably the three greatest players in Open Era history.

    Secondly, of course they had bad streaks at Shapo's age – he's 18! That's Roger in late 1999 and early 2000. How about this: From the SF of Copenhagen in March of 2000, when Roger was almost exactly the same age as Shapo, through St Poelten in May, Roger went 1-7. Then he managed to reach the 4R of Roland Garros, but then again from the QF of Halle through Gstaad he lost four straight matches.

    I'm sure we can find similar results with Novak and Rafa at young ages.

    The main thing we want to see from a young player is overall progress. They'll be ups and downs, but as long as the trend is in the right direction – and they don't stall out for years on end at a given station – then all is good.

  • Hartt · January 11, 2018 at 1:23 pm

  • catherine · January 11, 2018 at 1:34 pm

    Hartt – thanks.

  • Duke Carnoustie · January 11, 2018 at 2:19 pm

    Great articles guys.

    Again I am not saying the U.S. players don’t go to Australia trying to win but can you really say you are ready for extreme temperatures working out in a place like Kansas City. I’ll bet anything that Sock wilts under the sun. And I don’t know everyone’s training but the Zverevs used to train in Florida with Isner and even they went to Monte Carlo this offseason.

    I’ll take Novak to win it all. He is fresh and likely hungry and I don’t think Monfils is a threat to him.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 11, 2018 at 6:24 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Shivashish; There is no doubt Shapovalov is a rare talent. To beat Nadal and Delpo at 18 and to vault to the rd of 16 as a qualifier in his first US Open is more impressive than anything the 18 yr old Roger Federer managed to do. He's destined to be a world no. 1 based on what he did last year alone. But there will be adversity and setbacks and losing streaks and trial and errors.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 11, 2018 at 6:30 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Thanks Wimbledonerer, I saw that Fed lost first round four tourneys in a row. But he got out of it with a Davis Cup win vs Voltchkov. Fed definitely struggled with plenty of adversities early on. They all do, except Rafa really only had that foot injury that forced him to miss his first Roland Garros. Next year he won it.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 11, 2018 at 6:34 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    El Dude, some players shoot up too fast before they are really ready to deal with the life of a star player and all the extra work and obligations and demands. I remember reading one of the parents of a top player felt their son had too much success too soon.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 11, 2018 at 6:41 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Duke, Djokovic is a wildcard because he's been so inactive and is supposedly hurting (eblow) but he just wiped up the court with Thiem. And Agassi is making the long trip down under to be in Djokovic's corner. It's hard to go against Djokovic but my pick is Kyrgios.

  • Andrew Miller · January 11, 2018 at 6:59 pm

    Every player a unique path. Shapovalov as likely to win the Aussie now as four years from now. Any player that gets on a roll can pull off a stunning championship.

    I’ll admit the game is more physical and at the same time a player never knows if a rally will break him or his opponent or her or her opponent.

    We have proof here. Tom Johannson and Sloane Stephens. Who could predict Sloane coming back from injury to win a US Open?

    I still believe it’s near impossible to win a slam with Federer, Nadal, Djokovic, any motivated slam winner still able to win slams and unwilling to yield the court, on the ATP tour.

    But the evidence is there that it’s totally possible. Much as the wta tour has shown, a player can come from seemingly nowhere to win a slam.

    In fact, the whole come from nowhere to win a slam is probably more along the lines of a normal tour. It’s been surreal for some time, maybe six years? To have three legends competing at the same time.

    Normal may be more first time slam winners.

    I don’t think so, but it’s totally possible.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 11, 2018 at 8:17 pm

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Agree Andrew, Shapovalov could get hot tomorrow and go on a roll and win Australia. When an elite player rocks a major it's hard for that player to get fully up for the small events. I reckon Shapovalov ix that kind of elite player. He will get juiced for Melbourne and raise his level. It's all about peaking for the majors and Shapovalov showed last September that he knows how to do that, already. Kerberer vs Giorgi could be a preview of the Aussie Open second week showdown. Both are red hot right now. The winner of this match, and even the loser, have to be considered leading contenders for Aus Open. Giorgi could be the latest Wawrinka, Sloane, Pennetta. Giorgi is on fire right now. But so is Kerberer.

  • Moxie · January 11, 2018 at 8:29 pm

    Do you really think Shapalov could win the AO? He'd have to get through maybe Tsonga early, probably Kyrgios (who you've also pegged for the win, I'm guessing, since he's the next zenith of tennis,) likely Dimitrov and Rafa, just to get out of his half. Are you really feeling that?

  • El Dude · January 11, 2018 at 9:18 pm

    If Shapovalov wins the AO, I will not only burn an effigy of Roger Federer and devote myself to Nadalism, but also bow down to the infinite wisdom of Federberg as my lord and master. Might as well sell one of my organs while I’m at it.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  • Chazz · January 11, 2018 at 9:44 pm

    Dimitrov and Halep! No reasons other than they’re due and I have a feeling.

  • GameSetAndMath · January 11, 2018 at 10:51 pm

    He may not win it (more than likely will not win it). But, he is one of the 15 folks with a puncher's chance to win AO
    as per the bookies. That itself is a great placement.

  • Moxie · January 11, 2018 at 11:28 pm

    GameSetAndMath said:

    He may not win it (more than likely will not win it). But, he is one of the 15 folks with a puncher's chance to win AO
    as per the bookies. That itself is a great placement.Click to expand…

    I've got nothing against Shapo and I'm pleased for his quick rise to prominence. But if it were my $100, I wouldn't put it on him to win the AO, or a slam this year, tbh. I saw him play PCB live at the USO last Sept. He's very exciting, but also wildly erratic and undisciplined. He lost in 3 tight sets, and the reason it went 3 is that he had no idea of how to handle himself at the business end of the sets. He'll be a far greater player than PCB, imo, but he's got a lot to learn.

  • catherine · January 11, 2018 at 11:44 pm

    Chazz- I might agree with you. No one’s talking up Simona and she’s so far played only one tournament in China. So below the radar for publicity and pressure.

    Scoop – If Giorgi wins the USO I’ll – well, I don’t know what I’ll do. Probably nothing. Except avoid prediction comment :)

  • Hartt · January 12, 2018 at 1:44 am

    If Giorgi wins the AO I will stop watching women’s tennis! :)

  • catherine · January 12, 2018 at 2:36 am

    Hartt – O poor Camila ! What’s she done wrong ?
    I’m sure she has some fans.

    Barty reaches the final in Sydney – I’m sure Ashleigh is going to be a top player but she’s not quite ready yet. She needs a little more experience at the highest level. Angie should reverse her defeat to Ash in Zhuhai.

  • catherine · January 12, 2018 at 4:42 am

    I seem to be stuck on ‘I’m sure’…

    However I am sure Giorgi won’t be winning AO – her fire was put out by Angie in SS.

    A bit surprised to see echoing empty stands in Sydney for Barty’s match and not very many more for Kerber’s, which was a little later. Is it maybe the weather, a working day, or just that no one wants to watch women’s tennis ? I’ll check the men’s crowds.

  • catherine · January 12, 2018 at 5:02 am

    It’s hard to say – men’s matches I saw had better crowds but some were evening.

    Maybe crowds only come out to see ‘stars’ and there weren’t any of those in the women’s draw.
    I’d expect a better attendance tomorrow for the Barty/Kerber final if only to support the home team.

    Read somewhere recently that poor attendance is currently seen as a problem by the WTA, especially in Asia, where only Singapore and Tokyo draw well. Empty stands aren’t good for the game on tv so not good for sponsors.

  • Hartt · January 12, 2018 at 6:49 am

    Alex de Minaur just won over Paire 4-6, 6-1, 6-1, and will play Medvedev in the Sydney final. I only saw the third set, but the youngster was very impressive. He showed a lot of grit and determination battling to hold serve a couple times in that set.

  • catherine · January 12, 2018 at 7:30 am

    Hartt – if I were you I’d be careful bigging up de Minaur.
    Scoop will have him winning the Grand Slam a trice.

    Australians in both men’s and women’s finals.

  • catherine · January 12, 2018 at 7:33 am

    I meant ‘in a trice’.

    I’m intereted in comments I’ve seen about Barty in various places. People just like the way she plays, the variety. They’re sick of baseline bashing.

  • Michael in UK · January 12, 2018 at 7:51 am

    hahaha, love it Catherine!
    Excellent discussion all round here.

  • Hartt · January 12, 2018 at 8:02 am

    Catherine, Scoop will have de Minaur winning the AO, and then in his next post will have the youngster crashing and burning. :)

  • catherine · January 12, 2018 at 8:19 am

    Michael – Here in the UK we can catch up with Aus results early in the morning which is good timing. Get our comments in first.

    I had to laugh – saw Fognini playing the other Italian guy in Sydney and for long stretches you’d might have thought you were watching women’s tennis. Rallies up and down the court with the odd dink. And nothing hit particularly hard either.

    Maybe that’s how men play in Italy. Or maybe Fog was just conserving his energy for a blowout with the ump at a later date :)

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 12, 2018 at 8:54 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    Shapovalov is a contender, dark horse contender. But he will need a miraculous run even better than he did at US Open. Kyrgios is the pick if he's at his best and his head is on right. Which I think it finally is.

  • Scoop Malinowski · January 12, 2018 at 9:02 am

    Scoop Malinowski writes:

    DeMinaur, like Shapovalov, could do major damage in Melbourne. Or his fuel tank could run out with a tricky tough first round match against an unheralded but motivated opponent. Anything can happen. The unique thing about this year there are so many dangerous landmines for the top players to have to hopscotch through and around. So many young new players and also the players like Coric and Thiem and Sock and Harrison who are starving for a good run in a major.

  • Andrew Miller · January 12, 2018 at 9:23 am

    A player could go on a tear and win the Australian. I hadn’t heard of Kuerten years ago or Ostapenko before she played D. Kat last year in the States. And both came from nowhere to win the French.

    Tennis is a funny sport. We’ve grown comfortable with the idea that slams belong to players, but even to them it’s unbelievable for them to have slams. Federer says this all the time. He says he can’t believe it when he adds to his slam count. He also says he puts in the training to get there, but none of this is predictable.

    Sure, Kerber could win. Pliskova could win. Muguruza could win. Halep could win.

    Shapovalov could win too. As in the whole thing. He could also lose first round!

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