Gratitude and Determination: Denis Shapovalov's Journey Back to Tennis

Denis Shapovalov missed the second part of 2023 due to an injury

by Jovica Ilic
Gratitude and Determination: Denis Shapovalov's Journey Back to Tennis
© Phil Walter / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Denis Shapovalov is happy to compete again after staying away from the court for almost half a year due to knee issues. The Canadian returned in Brisbane, falling to Sebastian Ofner in the first round and hoping for a better run at the Australian Open.

Shapovalov has been ranked outside the top-10 since August 2021, losing four ATP finals in 2021 and 2022. The Canadian has not been able to play his best tennis in the previous couple of years, and he had to slow down after last year's Wimbledon.

Shapovalov had a mediocre run in the opening half of 2023, earning 13 wins by Wimbledon and struggling with a knee injury. Denis decided to end his season and take care of his body, hoping for a fresh start in 2024. The Canadian started the new season in Brisbane, but things did not work for him.

Ofner beat Shapovalov 6-4, 6-2 in 68 minutes, taking advantage of the Canadian's 11 double faults, many in the crucial moments. Denis served at 49%, further devaluating his chances against an in-form rival.

Denis Shapovalov is competing again after nearly six months.

Shapovalov faced three break points and failed to defend any.

Ofner saved both break points, playing well and keeping the pressure on the other side. They played quick and aggressive tennis, keeping the rallies short. Sebastian toppled Denis 52-34 in the fastest exchanges, controlling his strokes nicely and welcoming those double faults from his opponent.

Shapovalov faced issues right from the start, losing serve at 15 in the encounter's first game after a double fault. Ofner served well and kept the advantage, securing the sixth game with a powerful serve and opening a 4-2 gap.

Shapovalov served to stay in the set at 3-5 and closed the game with a service winner from 30-0 down, extending the battle. Sebastian faced no problems while serving for the set at 5-4, landing a forehand down the line winner and gathering a boost ahead of set number two.

The Austrian played his only loose service game in the second set's second game, offering the Canadian two break points.

Sebastian Ofner & Denis Shapovalov, Auckland 2024© Phil Walter / Staff - Getty Images Sport

Denis missed his chance on the second, spraying a forehand error and keeping Sebastian on the positive side.

The Canadian could not leave those chances behind, hitting a double fault at 1-1 and offering his rival two break points. Denis sprayed another on the first, falling a set and a break down and expressing frustration toward his box.

Ofner earned another break point in game five after, you guessed, Shapovalov's double fault, and the Canadian sprayed a forehand error to fall 4-1 behind and seal his fate in this one. Sebastian brought the victory home with a smash winner at 5-2, celebrating the triumph and moving into the second round.

Shapovalov will enter the Australian Open with a protected ranking, competing in Melbourne for the seventh straight year. Denis was the quarter-finalist two years ago, losing a cracker to Rafael Nadal after over four hours.

"I'm grateful to be back. Competing on the court in front of the fans again felt amazing. It took a lot to get back to this point, and I'm excited to continue the hard work and keep improving. Thank you, Auckland! " Denis Shapovalov said.

Denis Shapovalov