It was back in October of 2018, that Denis Shapovalov played opposite Stan Wawrinka at the Japan Open. It was the second time the young Canadian had played Wawrinka who hadn't exactly rebounded well from his knee operation in August of 2017.
But Shapovalov felt fresh and inventive as he executed his shots well. He would give blasting serves, pumping down the lines and opening up the court to find a spot that Wawrinka couldn't predict or reach. It was pure magic and he was overjoyed about the victory over the Swiss, saying "Yeah, I'm absolutely happy and proud of myself...It's a dream come true for me to play a guy like Stan...It's such a confidence booster to beat a guy of his level..."
. The young Canadian didn't have such luck at Rotterdam this year as he did at the Japan Open. Shapovalov came into the tournament with a tough resume of defeating many top ATP guys but he is still struggling in the title section, or haven't captured one yet.
He had defeated and dismantled the games of Tomas Berdych in this Rotterdam tournament along with Novak Djokovic at the Australian Open, Hyeon Chung last year at the Japan Open, and Kyle Edmund at Cincinnati. He also had a big win over Kei Nishikori at the Mexican Open.
He felt that success is enclosing him as he just may win a tournament very soon and got to duelling it out with Stan Wawrinka again this time at the quarterfinal of Rotterdam. He would match his rallies, moving Wawrinka around the court as the Swiss at times played quite tentative perhaps feeling the pangs from the result of last year's knee surgery.
But 'Stan the Man' showed his experience and skill, coming up with big shots at the right time, won vital points for the Swiss. Wawrinka says about his knee ailment that "I've been in contact a lot with my doctor since the surgery...It was important to take the time, not to rush..."
He'd do just that pacing himself and having success in his own style. Shapovalov would try many times to break that pattern which would result in many unforced errors on his part. There were much more challenges in the beginning set, but Wawrinka pushed through when the set was levelled and won 6-4.
The first few games of the second set weren't very successful for the Canadian but soon stayed focused, elevated his level of play and seen the set go to a tiebreak. Shapovalov looked almost unrecognizable as he sat taking his break with his hat adjusted the correct way on his head.
He knew he was in trouble but couldn't stop or distract the determined Stan Wawrinka from coming through at clutch moments to win the tiebreak and match 6-4, 7-6. The young Canadian's time is nearly approaching and as that first title expectation is looming bright.
Shapovalov knows that staying confident and in control, playing aggressive is much of the key. He says on winning more and perhaps that anticipated title is that he has to "Just play the good points at the right time"