Canada’s Denis Shapovalov is hoping to ride the momentum from his impressive clay-court season into the upcoming French Open.
Shapovalov has risen to a career-high No. 26 in the world rankings after reaching the semifinal in Madrid and the round of 16 in Rome this month. He will be the No. 24 seed at Roland Garros and is scheduled to face unseeded Australian John Millman in the opening round.
“His preparation, this clay-court swing, has been above expectations really,” said coach Martin Laurendeau. “Last year he didn’t even win a match in six or seven weeks on clay. Clay wasn’t really his friend, it was more his enemy than anything. This year it was all about trying to play a full season of clay in the calendar and just learn along the way.”
Shapovalov, from Richmond Hill, Ont., didn’t make it out of the first round of qualifying at the French Open last year. He went on to enjoy a breakout season and has emerged as one of the ATP World Tour’s top young players.
“Honestly it’s no secret, (there’s) nothing crazy that I’ve done,” Shapovalov said from Paris. “It’s just been a lot of hard work.”
Shapovalov beat three top-50 players — including compatriot Milos Raonic — before falling to third-ranked Alexander Zverev in the Madrid semifinals. In Rome, the 19-year-old Canadian defeated world No. 17 Tomas Berdych and No. 44 Robin Haase before losing to second-ranked Rafael Nadal.
“I’m trying to figure out what works for me and what doesn’t still on every surface and at every tournament,” Shapovalov said.
He has never played the 28-year-old Millman on tour. Millman, the world No. 58, reached the second round of the Australian Open this year and has split his season playing ATP World Tour and lower-level Challenger tournaments.
If the seedings hold, the Canadian teenager would face 14th-seeded American Jack Sock in the third round. Nadal, a 10-time tournament champion, could be waiting in the fourth round.
Two other Canadians will join Shapovalov in the main draw of the competition with first-round play set to begin Sunday.
Peter Polansky of Thornhill, Ont., lost his final qualification match Friday but gained a lucky loser spot. He’ll face unseeded Frenchman Pierre-Hugues Hebert in the first round.
Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil will open against Marton Fucsovics of Hungary in a matchup of unseeded players.
Raonic, from Thornhill, Ont., recently withdrew from the tournament because of an undisclosed injury. Shapovalov became the new Canadian No. 1 this week as Raonic slipped six spots to No. 28.
“It’s something I’ve worked towards all of my whole career, to one day achieve it,” Shapovalov said in a recent interview. “It’s pretty crazy to come so early, to come so soon.”
In women’s play, Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., lost her final-round qualifying match Friday.
She dropped a 6-3, 7-6 (9) decision to Richel Hogenkamp of the Netherlands.