A lot of Canadian Denis Shapovalov’s fans were looking forward to his next tournament appearance at the Rakuten Japan Open in Tokyo, after he was given a wild card into the qualifying.
Unfortunately, the 18-year-old, currently ranked No. 52, pulled out at the last minute. He was replaced by alternate Franko Skugor of Croatia.
(On the good news side, the Rolex Shanghai Masters announced Saturday that Shapovalov has been given a wild card into the main draw of the Masters 1000 tournament, which takes place the week after Tokyo).
There was speculation (including here at tennis.life) that the reason was because of the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur, which falls between Friday sundown and Saturday sundown – which wouldn’t have allowed him to play if he’s observant.
But it turned out to be rather more mundane than that: visa issues.
According to the ATP, Shapovalov (who had earlier entered the Tokyo event but withdrew) did not have the correct Japanese visa to compete in the event. The wild-card card into the qualifying came late in the game, we were told.
It seems the original plan was just to go to Tokyo for some promotional work with his new sponsor, Yonex. That may have required something less than the work visa needed to compete in the tournament.
Shapovalov finally confirmed it on Sunday, via Instagram.
I’d like to thank JTA and the tournament director of the Japan Open for offering me the WC for the qualifying. I’m sorry I was unable to obtain the proper working visa in time to play the tournament which I was looking forward to competing in. It’s my first trip to Japan and I’ve enjoyed every minute of being here. I want to thank Japanese tennis fans for welcoming me. I hope to return to Tokyo to compete in many years to come. Special thanks to Yonex for their incredible hospitality. I also want to thank Debbie who is part of @prestantia_seg for coming all the way to Tokyo to help me. See you all next year.
They had Shapovalov on the posters and everything.
— Ayumi (@ayumiphotos) September 29, 2017
There’s footage on YouTube of Shapovalov returning serves during a practice session with countryman Vasek Pospisil, and it looks like he had trouble with his right knee.
The person who posted the (undated) video said Shapovalov didn’t stop practice, though. And he continued to practice through the weekend.
He did manage to get a photo shoot in Thursday.
That Shapovalov’s Instagram post on this got nearly 17,000 likes is evidence of his crazy-quick change in status. From 2,760 Twitter followers back in February, he’s now up to 41,000.
— yonex.co.jp (@yonex_jp) September 28, 2017
A year ago, the (then) 17-year-old played the series of three $100,000 Challenger events that his friend Félix Auger-Aliassime (and fellow Canadians Frank Dancevic, Brayden Schnur and Filip Peliwo) are currently taking part in. Shapovalov went 1-3 on the mini-tour, winning just one match in the qualifying of the first of the three events.
After that, he went to train in Austria with Dominic Thiem and his coach Günter Bresnik. But he rolled his ankle over there, and didn’t play any matches for the rest of the season.
The result of that is that he has zero ranking points to defend the rest of 2017. In fact, he has virtually nothing to defend until next March, when a couple of good Challenger results come up for renewal.
Crazy-busy fall schedule
It may be the last extended period of his career in which that’s the case. And with some big tournaments coming up, he can perhaps even think about getting a seed in Australia in January.
Shapovalov’s tournament plans after the US Open were unclear when he was in New York. With Davis Cup the following week, he had already played 23 weeks this season through mid-September.
It turns out he was booked nearly every week, beginning with the Laver Cup.
Despite not playing in Tokyo, he will be in action next week after receiving a wild card for the Masters 1000 tournament in Shanghai.
The week after that (Oct. 16), he’s entered in the ATP tournament in Antwerp, Belgium. After that, he also made the main-draw cut at Roger Federer’s hometown tournament in Basel, Switzerland.
The week after that? The qualifying at the Masters 1000 tournament in Paris. The week after that? He’s likely to qualify for the inaugural Next-Gen finals in Milan, Italy.