Mastering fast Har-Tru clay at such a young age, Denis Shapovalov needed some time to find the rhythm on the European clay, celebrating the 19th birthday without an ATP triumph on the slowest surface. That all changed in Madrid last year, entering his third ATP event on clay and reaching the semi-final after beating Tennys Sandgren, Benoit Paire, Milos Raonic and Kyle Edmund, falling to Alexander Zverev but becoming the third-youngest Masters 1000 semi-finalist behind Rafael Nadal and Richard Gasquet!
A week later, Denis played in the third round in Rome and second round at Roland Garros, completing a rock-solid spring on the slowest surface and finishing the season in the top-30 with more good results on his tally. The young Canadian won 13 matches on the Tour before this week, advancing into the quarter-final in Montpellier and Rotterdam and battling with Roger Federer in the semi-final in Miami.
The start of the new clay season was not that good for Denis, losing to Jan-Lennard Struff in Monte Carlo and Christian Garin in Barcelona before dropping a lot of points in Madrid where the compatriot Felix Auger-Aliassime ousted him in the first round.
After four straight defeats, Shapovalov has made a winning start in Rome, ousting Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 7-6 in an hour and 35 minutes to set up the second round clash against world no. 1 Novak Djokovic on Wednesday. Before that, Denis has decided to secure more matches on clay ahead of Roland Garros, taking a wild card in Lyon next week for a debut at this ATP 250 event.
Shapovalov should be the fourth seed there if John Isner and Milos Raonic decide to play and will fight against Roberto Bautista Agut, Felix Auger-Aliassime, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Jeremy Chardy, Jan-Lennard Struff, Reilly Opelka, Tomas Berdych and others, seeking the place in the first ATP final.