Denis Shapovalov hopes a return to the Californian desert this week for the BNP Paribas Open will deliver the late-season revival he needs as he pursues a maiden Nitto ATP Finals berth in 2021.
Currently at No. 15 in the FedEx ATP Race To Turin, the 22-year-old still holds an outside chance at landing a place in the elite eight-player field. But since his breakthrough run to a maiden Grand Slam semi-final at Wimbledon in July, when he tested eventual champion Novak Djokovic, it has not been entirely smooth sailing as he compiled a 3-6 record on hard courts.
A third-round departure to Lloyd Harris at the US Open preceded a straight-sets dismissal to Daniil Medvedev in his sole Laver Cup singles match for Team World. He scored a win over Taylor Fritz at the San Diego Open last week before he fell to eventual finalist Cameron Norrie in the quarter-finals.
“It’s definitely great to be back at Indian Wells. Obviously, a little bit different playing it in October but it’s definitely great to still be in the States during this part of the season – definitely much closer to travel to,” Shapovalov said. “[It’s] really hot conditions, which I think can suit my game, [so I’m] looking forward to the tournament.”
An impressive showing at the Sunshine Double in 2019 proved the launch pad to one of Shapovalov’s career-best seasons. The Canadian holds a 3-2 record in the desert, beating 11th seed Marin Cilic to reach the round of 16 in 2019 before falling to then No. 67 Hubert Hurkacz in three sets.
At the Miami Open that month, Shapovalov beat Stefanos Tsitsipas and Frances Tiafoe en route to the semi-finals, where he lost to eventual champion Roger Federer. It was a run that elevated him into the Top 20 for the first time and he went on to end the season at No. 15.
“It’s been a while since that time frame. It’s a little bit weird being back here because it’s kind of where everything started,” Shapovalov said. “Definitely, I feel like a completely different player coming into the event this year, for sure, a lot more experience, a lot more relaxed on the court.
“I’ve been through the ride a couple of times now so I know exactly what to expect from myself and overall happy with the way I’ve been able to grow since everything kind of shut down [due to the pandemic].”
Seeded ninth, Shapovalov will open against compatriot Vasek Pospisil or American J.J. Wolf following a bye. This week, he also reprises his doubles partnership with Rohan Bopanna with hopes of beating his countryman Felix Auger-Aliassime and Hurkacz first up. In 2019, the duo upset Jamie Murray and Bruno Soares before Novak Djokovic and Fabio Fognini prevailed in a match tie-break.
Source: Tennis – ATP World Tour