Stepping Up: Footwork adjustment pays dividends for Canada’s Shapovalov

Stepping Up: Footwork adjustment pays dividends for Canada’s Shapovalov

The 2019 tennis season has been a tale of two campaigns for Canada’s Denis Shapovalov.

He struggled at times early in the year and had middling results over the clay and grass portion of the schedule. Things started to turn in late August and really picked up over the last few weeks as Shapovalov won his first career ATP Tour title and made his first Masters 1000 final appearance.

The 20-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., started working with coach Mikhail Youzhny last summer and the move paid quick dividends.

“He really made me change my footwork and start moving a lot more with smaller steps and much more actively,” Shapovalov said Tuesday from Athens. “I feel like that just made such a big difference early on. At first it was a little bit tough for me in practices. I was getting tired quickly. But it really paid off quickly.

“I feel with that little adjustment I was able to just play a lot better and move a lot better on the court. It really helped me in those matches.”

Shapovalov and Youzhny, a former world No. 8 from Russia, went to work at the Winston-Salem Open in mid-August. Shapovalov reached the semifinals at the ATP 250 event and made it to the third round at the US Open before dropping a five-set decision to Gael Monfils.

The Canadian posted some solid wins on the Asian swing before taking the Stockholm Open last month and dispatching top-15 players Fabio Fognini, Alex Zverev and Monfils at the Paris Masters last week. Shapovalov had a walkover semifinal win over Rafael Nadal before falling to top-ranked Novak Djokovic.

“I was just playing at another level in terms of my footwork and in terms of the variety in my game,” Shapovalov said. “I was really feeling confident. It was just a couple slight adjustments that (Youzhny) made but they went really far for me I think.”

The results have sent Shapovalov, who has worked with a variety of coaches over his three years as a pro, to a career-high No. 15 in the world rankings. His season record has improved to 35-26 and prize money has risen to US$2.01 million.

Shapovalov said he felt an immediate connection with Youzhny, who was also in his early 20s when he first cracked the top 20. The Russian went on to win 10 tournaments and 499 career matches before retiring last year.

“From the first day I felt like he was really able to pick me up and really see my game,” Shapovalov said. “He had a clear vision of how he sees me playing the game and how to coach me and how to work with me.

“I think he really clicked with me from the first day and the first practice. I think it’s been very positive working with him.”

The footwork change gave Shapovalov more time to prepare his shots, set up a plan of attack and follow through on court.

“I felt like I was able to do whatever I wanted with the ball a lot better,” he said. “You know, control it, play it anywhere I wanted to. I feel like that’s why I was able to play really well in Winston-Salem and at the (US) Open.”

In Paris, Shapovalov was pushed to three sets against Fognini and Zverev before dispatching Monfils in a tidy 59 minutes.

“I was really just enjoying my time,” Shapovalov said. “I know that I’ve been playing good tennis because I was able to lift the title a couple weeks ago. I think everything was just kind of clicking for me at that stage.”

The Canadian caught a break when Nadal withdrew due to an abdominal strain. Shapovalov started slowly against the experienced Djokovic, who posted a 6-3, 6-4 win.

Next up on the calendar is the Nov. 18-24 Davis Cup Finals in Madrid. Shapovalov will be joined by Milos Raonic, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Vasek Pospisil on the Canadian roster at the 18-team tournament.

“I think in terms of setup we can really put whoever we want out there and we don’t have a lot of weak spots,” Shapovalov said. “It’s amazing to be a part of that team.”

Canada is in Group F with the United States and Italy.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy www.medicago.com)
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Red Deer jumps to 449 active COVID-19 cases on Sunday

1,516 new cases identified in Alberta

The QEII was closed Sunday morning due to a pole fire. (Photo courtesy City of Red Deer)
UPDATE: QEII near Red Deer reopens

The QEII has been reopened after being closed due to a pole… Continue reading

Innisfail RCMP are investigating a single-vehicle crash that happened west of Bowden on March 21, 2021. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Bashaw RCMP investigate fatal collision in central Alberta

Bashaw RCMP are investigating after a fatal collision Saturday afternoon. Police were… Continue reading

A damaged unicorn statue is shown in a field outside of Delia, Alta. in this undated handout photo. It's not often police can report that a unicorn has been found, but it was the truth Saturday when RCMP said a stolen, stainless-steel statue of the mythical beast had been located in a field not far from where he'd been taken. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Mounties get their unicorn; stolen statue of mythical beast found in Alberta field

DELIA, Alta. — It’s not often police can report that a unicorn… Continue reading

Investigators from the Vancouver Police Department were in Chilliwack Saturday, collecting evidence connected to a double homicide. (file photo)
Police investigate shooting death of man outside downtown Vancouver restaurant

Vancouver police say one man was killed in what they believe was… Continue reading

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start registering people 18 years and older for COVID-19 vaccines

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government says it’s inviting people 18 years… Continue reading

San Jose's Tomas Hertl, center, celebrates with teammates Patrick Marleau, left, and Rudolfs Blacers, right, after Hertl scored a goal during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Minnesota Wild, Friday, April 16, 2021, in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Stacy Bengs)
Patrick Marleau set to break Gordie Howe’s games record

For Patrick Marleau, the best part about Monday night when he is… Continue reading

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks during a press briefing at the White House, Tuesday, April 13, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Half of U.S. adults have received at least one COVID-19 shot

WASHINGTON — Half of all adults in the U.S. have received at… Continue reading

People are shown at a COVID-19 vaccination site in Montreal, Sunday, April 18, 2021, as the COVID-19 pandemic continues in Canada and around the world. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
Federal government to send health-care workers to Ontario, Trudeau says

MONTREAL — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says federal departments and some Canadian… Continue reading

People cross a busy street in the shopping district of Flushing on Tuesday, March 30, 2021, in the Queens borough of New York. Access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States is growing by the day. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kathy Willens
Despite COVID-19 vaccines, Americans in D.C. not feeling celebratory — or charitable

WASHINGTON — This might make Canadians jealous of their American cousins for… Continue reading

A man pays his respects at a roadside memorial in Portapique, N.S. on Thursday, April 23, 2021. RCMP say at least 22 people are dead after a man who at one point wore a police uniform and drove a mock-up cruiser, went on a murder rampage in Portapique and several other Nova Scotia communities. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Memorial service in Nova Scotia marks one year since mass shooting started

TRURO, N.S. — A memorial service is planned for today in central… Continue reading

In this April 23, 2016, photo, David Goethel sorts cod and haddock while fishing off the coast of New Hampshire. To Goethel, cod represents his identity, his ticket to middle class life, and his link to one the country's most historic industries, a fisherman who has caught New England's most recognized fish for more than 30 years. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
‘It’s more than just a fish:’ Scientists worry cod will never come back in N.L.

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — The latest assessment of Atlantic cod stocks, whose… Continue reading

Most Read