Denis Shapovalov earning instant fame at Rogers Cup

In the days leading up to the Rogers Cup, tournament organizers were forced to announce one major withdrawal after another. But the emergence of homegrown teen star Denis Shapovalov has helped ease the sting,

17-year-old the talk of Toronto tournament

Denis Shapovalov celebrates after beating Australian Nick Kyrgios on centre court at the Rogers Cup on Monday. Shapovalov's play has shifted attention away from the withdrawals of Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal.

In the days leading up to the Rogers Cup, tournament organizers were forced to announce one major withdrawal after another.

By the start of the men's tennis showcase, top draws Roger Federer, Andy Murray and Rafael Nadal were among the no-shows.

But the emergence of a homegrown teen star has helped ease the sting for tournament director Karl Hale.

Denis Shapovalov, 17, upset Australia's Nick Kyrgios in three sets on Monday night in his main draw debut. The Richmond Hill, Ont., player requested to play on centre court despite being the youngest player in the tournament.

"It was the best atmosphere that I've ever seen on a Monday night," Hale said. "Playing a 19th ranked player and beating him in three sets was the most amazing thing I've seen. The most electric atmosphere on a Monday night we've ever had."

Shapovalov has quickly become the story and star of the tournament.

The lefty has been given a prime spot on Wednesday's schedule, following another homegrown star, Milos Raonic, on centre court in the evening draw. Raonic will play his tournament opener against Yen-Hsun Lu.

Shapovalov's image — alongside Raonic and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic — has also been added to the main page on the tournament website.

"We want to promote Canadians which we never have been able to do in the past because they haven't gone as deep as we wanted," Hale said. "But now we have the Wimbledon junior champion, we have a Wimbledon finalist in Milos, both playing Wednesday night against some great, great opponents so it's going to be an electric night."

Hectic month

Shapovalov was staying humble when asked about now being a face of the tournament.

"It's exciting," he said. "I'm trying to not look at it too much in that way. Just trying to focus on myself, focus on playing the match, I'm not trying to look around too much."

It's been a hectic month for Shapovalov. After winning the Wimbledon boys title earlier this month, he's faced an abundance of media and fan attention before making his senior debut at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C., last week. Shapovalov played Lukas Lacko tight but eventually fell in three sets.

His coach Adriano Fuorivia — who is assisted by Shapovalov's mom Tessa — thinks the teen has handled the attention quite well.

"[Denis was] getting a little bit of fame and getting messages from people that he hasn't heard of in five years," Fuorivia said. "But on top of that, it's about being able to turn that off — turning that switch off and getting back to work."

No favours 

Bulgaria's Grigor Dimitrov, Shapovalov's opponent on Wednesday, is no stranger to the youngster. The two hit and practise together occasionally and according to Fuorivia, Dimitrov greets Shapovalov all the time.

Despite the two knowing each other, Shapovalov doesn't expect there to be any favours coming his way as he looks to advance to the third round.

"It's going to be a tough match for me," he said. "I don't think it's going to be any easier than when I played Nick.

"He's an experienced player, there's no reason why he shouldn't be in the top 10."

Having an emergence of youth on the ATP World Tour with the likes of 22-year-old and world No. 9 Dominic Thiem and Shapovalov is also a welcome sight for veterans like Tomas Berdych.

"I think it's great that tennis is seeing a new face coming up," Berdych said. "I think the last couple years it was quite steady, not many new faces coming in, so I think he definitely has the weapons to come up and when he shapes up the other things, he can become a really top player."