Denis Shapovalov produced an imperious performance on Friday to beat Andy Murray in straight sets and reach the Wimbledon fourth round for the first time. That marked only the second win for Shapovalov in 12 matches against the ‘Big 4’ of Roger Federer (0-1), Rafael Nadal (1-3), Novak Djokovic (0-6) and Andy Murray (1-0).
After the match Denis Shapovalov acknowledged the struggles he has had against the quartet, but claimed that he is beginning to approach matches against them with a different mindset.
“At the beginning of my career it was always difficult to face the members of the Big 4, but now I have played many times against them, so I am learning to take them as if they were another player,” Shapovalov said. “(I try) not to think too much if (it is) Andy Murray or another of the Big 4.”
Denis Shapovalov went on to reveal his admiration for Andy Murray and Roger Federer, claiming that he remembers watching Federer’s 2009 final against Andy Roddick. He also recalled that the year Murray won his second title at Wimbledon (in 2016), he himself won the junior one.
“I saw a lot of matches of Roger as a child, his last final with Roddick comes to mind,” Shapovalov said. “The year Andy won here, I won junior, so I admired him a lot, I remember seeing him against Milos in that final.”
Talking about his win over Andy Murray, Shapovalov revealed that he was pleased to have played each point on merit despite playing in front of a partisan crowd.
“I was expecting the crowd to be with Andy today, which is completely normal. I tried to focus on myself and play my game,” Shapovalov said. “At each point, I was just trying to compete to the best of my ability, and I really felt like I was up for it. I am very happy with myself, it has been one of my best matches in that sense. It was an almost perfect day for me.”
Expressing satisfaction on his performance, which he called the best of his career to date, Shapovalov admitted that it was a ‘dream come true’ for him to beat a legend like Andy Murray on the hallowed courts of Wimbledon.
“It was surely one of my best performances, even outside of Wimbledon,” Shapovalov said. “I think I definitely played really flawless today, super solid. It has been an incredible experience; it has been like a dream; I grew up watching this tournament and this Wimbledon court.”
“I saw a lot of legends play here, so it was always a goal to compete here,” he added. “Going out today to play against a guy like Andy, who is another legend, and beating him after the tennis he had been doing, is something incredible for me.”
“My tennis has improved a lot on grass” – Denis Shapovalov
Denis Shapovalov also explained that he gave Roland Garros a miss so that his shoulder could heal fully before the grasscourt season. That decision seems to be reaping rich dividends now.
“I am very satisfied with the tough tour that I am having,” Shapovalov said. “We decided to skip Roland Garros so that my shoulder would recover on the grass, so that it would fully heal and (give me) the best chance of performing well here. Now it (appears to be) the correct option, I am super happy.”
Despite his ability to serve big and hit huge groundstrokes off either flank, Denis Shapovalov remains a work in progress on grass. The Canadian has lost more matches on the surface (11) than he has won (10).
Before this year, Shapovalov had won only one match in three visits to Wimbledon. So despite three solid wins at SW19 this year, Shapovalov doesn’t want to get too ahead of himself; he knows he has many things to improve on grass.
“Over the years my tennis has improved a lot on grass; it has been a matter of time and being patient, although I still have room for improvement,” Shapovalov said. “There are things I want to keep working on to one day be a very tough opponent here.”
Speaking about his fourth-round opponent Roberto Bautista Agut, Shapovalov claimed that he anticipates a tough battle against the experienced Spaniard.
“Against Roberto it will be a difficult game; we have never faced each other,” the Canadian said. “He is a really tough opponent, (doesn’t give any) gifts to the opponent; it is a match I will have to win. It will surely be a great battle, surely a long one.”
Shapovalov also spoke about his good friend Felix Auger-Aliassime, who takes on Nick Kyrgios next. Despite the formidable threat posed by Kyrgios, Shapovalov expects a close match between the two.
“It is a match that I am going to see, for sure,” the 22-year-old said. “It will be super fun, obviously. Nick is a very tough opponent, but Felix has improved a lot; he is (playing) at a very high level now. Kyrgios is a great talent, we all know what he is capable of, but I think he may arrive a little tired. Nothing is assured, but I think it will be a super exciting and brilliant match; they are both incredible athletes.”