An unreturned forehand. A scoop backhand volley winner. A screaming backhand down the line and an ace.
That’s how Denis Shapovalov saved four (count them, four!) match points in his first round match of Rogers Cup presented by National Bank a year ago – playing in Montreal against little-known Rogerio Dutra Silva of Brazil.
What would follow in the days to come was pure magic. A straight-set win over Juan Martin Del Potro. A dramatic, made-of-dreams triumph over Rafael Nadal in a third-set tiebreak. A scrappy win over fellow surprise quarter-finalist Adrian Mannarino. And a fight-til-the-end loss to eventual champion Sascha Zverev in the semis.
The thing about Shapovalov’s run a year ago at Rogers Cup wasn’t just the seismic rumblings it sent into Canada’s sports scene, but also what it spurned next. The teen would make the fourth round of the US Open – after qualifying – then lead Canada back into the Davis Cup World Group, and in 2018 make the semi-finals in Madrid at a Masters 1000, get seedings at the majors and a career-high ranking of No.23 in the world.
Tonight Shapovalov has a tough test against a tried and true veteran in Frenchman Jeremy Chardy. Denis won their meeting at Wimbledon just a few weeks ago, but the pressure – and the spotlight – will be on the new Canadian No.1.
Imagine being 19 and the toast of not only the tennis town but the tennis nation?
Shapovalov will look to bring that same magic to Toronto from a year ago. But in the last 12 months he’s also proven this much: He’s here to stay – for a long time.