Interview with Denis Shapovalov

by Kartik Vyas

Spring 2016

ONTENNIS interviewed a 16 year old Denis before his breakthrough at the 2016 Rogers Cup in Toronto. Although his recent rise in the ATP rankings is amazing for Canadian Tennis, the Ontario Tennis Association has been following Denis' progress for years. Read about his early successes, decisions and future goals.

Iand many others just call him “Shap”; however, his given name is Denis Shapovalov. I recently checked the OTA archives on my computer in an effort to see when “Shap” entered the Team Ontario radar: October 30, 2007 – this was the date of the 2007 ACE Cup Team Ontario invitation for players who would be U12 the following year and competing in the annual Inter-Provincial competition between Ontario and Quebec. All selected players were born in 1996 or 1997+ (“+” stands for younger…); therefore, all players would have been 10 or 11 years of age. “Shap” was definitely younger: he was 8 years old at the time, mixed in with a group of boys the likes of Tabilo, Volfson, Manji, Obucina – players who are either attending solid NCAA Division 1 schools or certainly could have if they had so chosen.

Fast forward to present day, 9 years later, “Shap” is only 16 (turning 17 in April) and has just won his first professional ITF Futures event in Weston, Florida and attained a ATP ranking of #778! How serious is Team “Shap” about his development and more importantly his future potential? Based on actions, I would surmise that they are “ALL IN!” Since November 2015, “Shap” has played 7 pro level Futures events in Florida; 37 singles matches and 15 doubles matches.

I recently interviewed “Shap” on the phone while he remained in Florida to continue training after his big win last week:

Q.What are your systems of support?

A.I have a great team in place! I now have a sponsor in place who is looking after all my travel expenses, training costs and coach expenses… I am very fortunate to have Andrzej Kepinski sponsoring me and allowing me to pursue my passion to become a professional tennis player. My parents: Tessa and Victor have always supported me to the fullest. My mother’s tennis club: Tessa Tennis is my primary training club when I am at home – I feel like Tessa Tennis was created for me! My other coach who is probably my primary coach: Adriano Fuorivia is the one who travels with me and spends them most time with me on a daily basis. Sports Physio: Dr. Nick Martichenko has been working with me for the past three years. Fitness Coach: Clement Golliet has been working with me for the past year.

Q.Greatest achievement: tennis related?

A.Can I state four? 1. Futures win (#1) 2. Winning Indoor and Outdoor U18 Nationals 2015 3. Winning Jr. Davis Cup in 2015 4. US Open Junior Doubles in 2015

Q.Worst task you can think of which is associated with your tennis development?

A.I don’t like drilling one on one such as a coach fed ball…I find this boring! This doesn’t mean that I don’t have to train this way, I just don’t like it! I prefer to hit with someone and have the coach work through any issues I may be having.

Q.What do you look forward to when on the court?

A.Going out and competing…having a good match….winning tight matches; win or lose, I am happy if I competed well…of course, it is a better feeling when you win those tight matches.

Q.Describe the experience you had in 2014 during the Rogers Cup when you hit with Federer?

A.Unbelievable experience to hit with my idol...seeing him on the other side of the net and it dawned upon me that that I was hitting with the winner of numerous grand slam titles. I was really nervous at first, but got into a good rhythm and settled down. I tried my best to enjoy the experience.


Q.Did Fed or Edberg give you any specific feedback?

A.No, but Edberg told my coach that I was progressing nicely!

Q.You have met your TC performance standards for the past three years meeting the gold standard each year, so needless to say, you are tracking well in respect to your development as a tennis player. Why aren’t you training full time at the NTC in Montreal?

A.I have a great team in place right now! I don’t want to leave my family and I have a great relationship with my coach…I think they do a lot of group training at the NTC in Montreal and that doesn’t suit me. I have a great bond with my current team: my parents, Coach Adriano, my sponsor, so, I don’t need to break that positive bond. I am in a good place right now as far as my training is concerned. Also, my current coaches have brought me along this far; whereas, the team in Montreal may not know my needs better than my current team.

Q.Several months ago during a meeting I had with a few Ontario coaches, ONE coach commented: “Denis’ attitude has done a complete 180 degree turn in the past five years…his behaviour now on and off the court is exemplary” – is this a matter of maturity OR have you had to work at this? Who has mentored you through this process?

A.My level of maturity has come a long way and it hasn’t been easy. I think both my mom and Adriano feel that attitude is really important and key in achieving success in life, so I am continually pushed by them. I still have the odd meltdown and it is frustrating for me as well as my coaches…like, I said, it is something that I am always aware of and committed to improving. At a certain point, a player has to recognize that getting mad and crying/whining is no longer going to help.

Training with the Greatest! Denis poses with Federer after training on centre court at the Rogers Cup. Left: Adriano Fuorivia, Roger Federer, Denis Shapovalov, Stefan Edberg.

Q.Tell me about your sponsors? I will assume that at your current level, your sponsorship is not as simple as 2 pairs of shoes, 5 outfits and unlimited socks for the year…If you are playing a tournament in Europe and you need a pair of tennis shoes and shorts (because you spilled spaghetti sauce on your favourite white shorts and laundry is not an option)…what happens?

A.I am very lucky to be sponsored by Nike Int’l and Wilson Int’l.Here is my deal with Nike: I usually get four shipments a year which are timed around the grand slams: Aussie Open, French and Wimbledon, US Open and a fall package. Each shipment contains 5 pairs of shoes, 8 match shirts and shorts, 10 practice shirts, a huge supply of socks, wristbands and caps. If I am playing an event (or at home) and am in need of some product, I send an email to my Nike contact and they take care of it! The product I need is usually shipped within two days – I am really fortunate to have this!

Q.Can you hook me up with some Nike stuff?

A. I will try!

Q.How about Wilson…what is your deal with them?

A.Wilson gives me 8-12 frames per year and will always replace them as required. I also get an unlimited supply of Luxilon string.

Q.What kind of a racquet do you use? String? Tension?

A.Wilson ProStaff 97 String: LuxilonAluPower Tension: 52lbs

Q.Future plans: Do you just have a PLAN A right now: Pro tennis career? Is a PLAN B even a part of the equation? College tennis?

A.Both! I definitely want to go pro; however, I am trying to still stay focused on school as you never know what might happen in one-two years…injury etc…I find it really tough to get my school work done after a long day of training, but it is always in the back of my mind.


Q.Your team made the decision to play more Pro level events at the end of 2015 and continued with that plan in early 2016 to the point where a decision was made to skip the Australian Junior Open. Why?

A.My Team decided that it was too expensive to go and despite support from my sponsor, we decided that it was more worthwhile to play four tournaments vs two junior events. The other benefit was to play a higher level of players in the Futures and play all these events on clay. I feel that my game is much better as a result of the tough matches on clay. Plus, a lot of other pro level Futures events are also played on clay, so this was great for my preparation moving forward.

Q.You have two coaches listed on your ITF profile: your mother and Adriano. How do they work together to get the most out of your tennis? How is the time divided?

A.When in Toronto, my mom and Adriano work with me on the court. Adriano is the primary coach and they both work well together. They are always having meetings to discuss the direction of my game and I get the feeling that it is “decision by committee.”

Q.What happens when they (mom and Adriano) have a disagreement?

A.I don’t really see that, because most conversations like that are behind closed doors…they keep me out of it. All I know is that they always find a solution.

Q.Your team has elected to keep you in Florida for another week…tell me what your typical day is like right now?

A.7:30am – wake up | 8:30am – leave for Saddlebrook | 9:30 – warm-up | 10am – 12noon: on-court with my coach and another pro player | 12noon – 1:30; fitness | 1:30-3 – lunch at Publix (chicken tenders and sandwiches…price is right!) | 3:15 – back on court; training, same as the morning | 5:15 – stretch for 30 min | 6:15 – drive back to house | 7:00 – dinner | 7-8 – homework | 9:30 pm – lights out | “EAT, SLEEP, REPEAT”

Q.What are your goals for 2016?

A.Attain a ranking of top 500 ATP (main goal) and Win a Junior Grand Slam singles title.