Rising star Shapovalov trying to keep feet on ground ahead of U.S. Open
'I had one good week but it's back to work now,' says Richmond Hill, Ont., native
Rising Canadian tennis star Denis Shapovalov knows not every week will replicate the magic of his Rogers Cup semifinal run.
The 18-year-old shot from 143rd to 67th in the ATP singles rankings following last week's tournament, but said he still needs to improve before he's consistently at the top level.
"It was one incredible week but I still feel like I'm the same guy I was when I was [ranked] 140 and I have a lot of work to do to secure my spot in that position and keep moving forward," he told a news conference in Montreal on Thursday before he heads to New York to play in next week's U.S. Open qualifying tournament.
The left-handed teen from Richmond Hill, Ont., introduced himself to Canada last week with an exhilarating performance that included a victory over top-seeded Spanish legend Rafael Nadal.
The Canadian lost in the semifinals to eventual winner Alexander Zverev but still pocketed a cool $220,760 US in prize money.
Full of belief
Shapovalov heads to the U.S. Open with high confidence, but few expectations.
"Right now I have a lot of belief in myself, and anyone I go on the court against in the [qualifiers] I feel I have a chance to beat them," he said, but added just a moment later that an early defeat is also possible.
"Anyone, on a given day, can play really well. I've proven that, a lot of guys are proving that, so it's not going to be easy but I love a challenge," he said.
Shapovalov is the youngest player ever to reach the semifinals of a Masters Series tournament, one level below the Grand Slams.
He is also the lowest-ranked player to reach a Masters semifinal since Andrei Pavel (191st) in 2003.
Moving forward, he said he would mix playing top-level ATP tournaments with lower-tier Challenger events as he works on developing his skills and consistency.
Earlier on Thursday, Shapovalov spent an hour and a half running through drills during a practice session with coach Martin Laurendeau.
He jogged a few warmup laps around the court and stopped to sign a baseball hat for some young fans before picking up a racket and getting down to work.
The lanky, blonde-haired teen appeared relaxed despite the presence of numerous media outlets.
At one point, Laurendeau gently chided his young star for rushing the net too quickly.
"You're like a cheetah. A cheetah is quick in a straight line but can't change direction," he said.
Later, Shapovalov said one of the goals of the practice was to improve his volleys after "missing quite a lot" during the Rogers Cup.
"I had one good week but it's back to work now," he said.
The U.S. Open qualifying tournament begins next week and the main draw gets underway Aug. 28.