Denis Shapovalov, of Canada,  returns to Casper Ruud, of Norway, during their final men's match at the ATP 250 Geneva Open tournament in Geneva, Switzerland, Saturday, May 22, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Keystone, Laurent Gillieron

Canada’s Shapovalov loses to Ruud of Norway in Geneva Open final

GENEVA — Denis Shapovalov might have lost final of the Geneva Open, but the Canadian said his solid week set him up nicely for the red clay courts of the French Open in less than two weeks.

The No. 2 seed from Richmond Hill, Ont., lost 7-6(6), 6-4 to Norway’s Casper Ruud on Saturday, and moments after the match, Shapovalov was asked if he’d proved a point about his ability on clay.

“I don’t think I have any points to prove. I’m playing for myself. I’ve had good results in the past on clay. So, I don’t think it’s a surprise that I’m able to play on this surface anymore,” Shapovalov said.

“I just think it’s more me coming together with myself, because my game has been there, I’ve been saying that for the last couple months, it’s has been a bit more mental. So, I’ve moved past that, and I’m able to just play my game now, and play the way I know that I can play.”

In the post-match trophy presentation, the third-seeded Ruud said the final of the ATP Tour 250 event could have gone either way.

Shapovalov disagreed.

“(Ruud) played super clean today,” said Shapovalov, who didn’t force one break point against Ruud. “Honestly, he didn’t give me anything, he just played super solid. I think today, he was the better player for sure.”

The Canadian, who lost a third-set tiebreak against 20-time Grand Slam champion Rafael Nadal last week at the Italian Open after missing on two match points, is looking forward to some rest before the season ramps up again with the French Open. The main draw of the second Grand Slam of the season starts May 30.

“Obviously the body is beat up, it’s been a physical couple of days, so just (need) some rest to be honest. I think the game’s there, everything’s there. It’s just getting the body ready for Roland Garros,” he said.

“Obviously I’m playing a lot more relaxed now and more patient, so for sure, I’m playing good on the clay and definitely was a great week for me.”

Canadians are on a nine-match losing streak in ATP Tour finals and are 1-18 in finals since Milos Raonic won in Brisbane in 2016. The only win in that stretch was Shapovalov in Stockholm in 2019.

While the 22-year-old players knew each other well from facing off in the junior ranks, Saturday was the first time Shapovalov and Ruud had battled at the top level.

Shapovalov advanced after beating qualifier Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay 6-4, 7-5 in semifinal action on Friday.

Ruud beat Spain’s Pablo Andujar 6-3, 6-2 in the other Geneva semifinal. He leads all players on clay with 32 wins since start of 2020.

Ruud continues to ride a wave of momentum, having reached the semifinals at his past three events, and quarterfinals in two tournaments before that.

“(I’ll) just keep working and build on the great form or the shape that I have these days and get a good week of practice before Roland Garros starts,” Ruud said. “I think it’s important to keep the intensity up and the focus up, and in one way try to pretend that this never happened in the sense that you need to work hard every day in the coming days to Paris.”

Shapovalov was asked about the Toronto Maple Leafs’ first-round playoff series against Montreal. He sent best wishes to Leafs captain John Tavares, who’s out indefinitely with a concussion after taking a knee to the head in Thursday’s Game 1 loss to the Canadiens.

“I hope John’s OK. I saw the hit. I think hockey’s a brutal sport like that. So, obviously wishing him all the best and hopefully, he has a good recovery,” Shapovalov said. “I think that’s the most important thing right now.”

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