Denis Shapovalov is on edge.
Tonight, he will walk onto Centre Court at IGA Stadium for the first time since the official launch of his pro career: his epic run to the semifinals of the 2017 Rogers Cup that propelled him to superstardom.
“This tournament is extremely important to me,” said Shapovalov at a press conference on Saturday. “This is where my career started, and being back means a lot to me. I feel the love from fans and from the city. I’m very excited to start the week.”
The World No.32 will get the tennis balls rolling against a tricky opponent: World No.40 Pierre-Hugues Herbert of France.
“It will certainly be a big match,” affirmed Louis Borfiga, who oversees high performance and athlete development at Tennis Canada. “Herbert is having a good season, so it won’t be easy for Denis. But he has the home court advantage and we can hope for the best.”
According to Borfiga, Shapovalov has put his past success behind him and set his sights on the 2019 event, his first since Wimbledon. The Canadian has admitted he needed a few weeks off to rest and refocus.
When asked about Shapovalov’s decision to skip the tournament in Washington last week, Borfiga was reassuring: “It can happen sometimes. He’s played a lot of tennis in the past year and half. He’s still young and has to adapt to a new rhythm. Perhaps he needed some time off to refuel.”
On Monday night, Shapovalov and Herbert will meet for the third time and only the second on the ATP Tour. The 28-year-old Frenchman won their last duel in the quarterfinals in Montpellier this past February. “Denis’ greatest strengths are his speed and ability to make surprising shots,” said Borfiga. “I think he can dominate the rallies. That said, Herbert will try to mix things up by going to the net. Denis will have to be very vigilant, especially when it comes to passing shots. By going to the net a lot, Herbert slows the momentum. That’s always difficult for an opponent because there’s no time to adapt. And it’s all the more delicate in the first round because you want to hit a lot of balls. This is something Herbert doesn’t do. So, it’ll be tough.”