With today’s first-round victory at Basel, Canadian wonderteen Denis Shapovalov has officially qualified for Milan, the new, strangely formatted “Next Gen” tournament intended to gin up interest in the rising cohort of men’s tennis stars. Only the top seven players 21 and under get to qualify, plus an Italian wildcard. After a season of unlikely feats it’s worth repeating once more: Congrats to Shapo.
If you’re a fan of flashy players but already exhausted by Nick Kyrgios, you 1) are a healthy person, and 2) ought to buy low on Shapovalov, who offers all the pyrotechnics with none of the headaches. Today the 18-year-old stumbled in the first set of his matchup against Yuichi Sugita before settling back in to win 4-6, 6-2, 7-6(3). At his peak, he obliterates the ball on both wings and gets himself to the net by sheer force of will—like so few of his contemporaries, he’s doing things the Roger Federer Way. In the second set of today’s match he offered one perfect little example of what he can do once he’s up there:
That’s as good as a passing shot as Sugita could hit—struck hard, tightly angled, and plunging right at the net player’s feet to make it as hard as possible to dig up—but Shapo had the best possible rejoinder. Almost no one on tour could have put a racket on that drop shot. For a kid who’s still sharpening tools as basic as his slice, he’s got some terrifying raw speed and soft touch. This sport’s his to own.