FAA makes it three Canadians in Marseille QFs

After a topsy-turvy, dramatic win over Pierre-Hugues Herbert, Félix Auger-Aliassime made it a trifecta of Canadians to reach the quarterfinals of the ATP tournament in Marseille.

Auger-Aliassime joined teammates Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil in the final eight.

And, in a reversal of recent Canadian draw luck: none of them will play the other.

The 19-year-old Auger-Aliassime saved three match points against him, and finally closed it out 11-9 in the third-set tiebreak. With an ace.

“I started incredibly. I couldn’t ask more of myself in the first set,” Auger-Aliassime said in a French-language interview on court after the win.

The Canadian won the first set 6-0, broke Herbert three times, and took 27 of the 40 points.

“What was courageous, good on his part was that he didn’t flinch. He hung in, and raised his level. There were very few break points on either side after that,” he added. “I was very surprised at the result of the first set. And after that, I … don’t really know what to say.”

Herbert won two points that featured Tweeners – one of them to take the second set.

Marseille
(TennisTV.com)

“I tried to hold on as best as I could. Mentally, I tried to put it all in there to try to win it. But I don’t even know if that was a mental match,” Auger-Aliassime said, in response to a question about mental strength. “It was … all over the place.”

Marseille
A great guess, and all the mustard he could muster with the forehand gave Herbert a big point, deep into the match. (TennisTV.com)

Herbert earned match point No. 2 after Auger-Aliassime hit a really good overhead that looked to have the point won. Not only did Herbert guess right on the direction he fired the forehand so hard down the line that Auger-Aliassime was sent sprawling to even get his racket on it.

“The return of the smash – I’ve never seen that. It was just incredible,” he said.

Shapo, Pospisil and FAA

Earlier in the day, Denis Shapovalov played his opening match in Marseille after a first-round bye.

And he was impressive in dispatching Marin Cilic 6-4, 4-6, 6-2. That one had its dramatic moments as well.

Marseille
(TennisTV.com)

On Wednesday, Pospisil posted a very routine win – and an impressive upset – over No. 8 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland. The 29-year-old also is into the semifinals in doubles with Herbert’s regular doubles partner, Nicolas Mahut.

Pospisil with the toughest matchup

Shapovalov will be first up on Friday against unseeded Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan – an unpredictable opponent who is capable of pulling out a big match on the day.

That one will be at 3 p.m. Marseille time (9 a.m. ET, 6 a.m. PT).

They’ll be followed by Pospisil against No. 2 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas.

The two have played only once, in the qualifying of the ‘s-Hertogenbosch grass-court event in 2017.

But Pospisil can access plenty of intel from his teammates. 

Tsitsipas is a former junior rival of the two younger Canadians. Auger-Aliassime was 3-for-3 against the Greek star in the juniors, and is 2-1 against him in the pros. Shapovalov has done even better: he also went 3-0 against him in the juniors – and is 4-0 against him in the pros. Let’s just say that Tsitsipas isn’t a huge fan of the red maple leaf.

Auger-Aliassime will be the second night-session match, after the fourth quarterfinal between No. 1 seed Daniil Medvedev and Gilles Simon of France. It should start around 9 p.m. local time (3 p.m. ET, noon PT).

He’ll play the winner between No. 3 seed David Goffin and qualifier Egor Gerasimov.

That match got under way after 10 p.m., following Auger-Aliassime and Herbert’s two hour, 41-minute drama-fest.

Marseille being a 250-level event, TSN/RDS do not have the broadcast rights. Hopefully they can work something out and get those matches on air Friday.

(All screenshots from TennisTV.com)

Canada sweeps Greece to open ATP Cup

BRISBANE, Australia – The young – and youngish – guns abound in Group F at the ATP Cup.

Canada has both Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov. Australia has Alex de Minaur and Nick Kyrgios. Germany has Alexander Zverev.

And Greece has Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Tsitsipas is the most highly ranked of all of them. He’s also basically a one-man team (with all due respect to any athlete who plays, or aspires to play, professional tennis).

But with Denis Shapovalov’s 7-6 (6), 7-6 (4) victory over Tsitsipas in a match of No. 1s that was a testing way to start a tennis season, Canada clinched a victory..

Earlier, Auger-Aliassime had the relative good fortune to square off against Michail Pervolarakis, a 23-year-old ranked No. 487.

And afterwards, Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov finished off the sweep with a 6-2, 6-3 victory in doubles over Pervolarakis and … Petros Tsitsipas, a late substitute for his brother.

Goliath slays David

Pervolarakis’s last match came in December – at a $15,000 ITF event in Heraklion, Greece.

That’s the lowest level of pro tennis. And that day, he was beaten in three sets by No. 689-ranked Artem Smirnov of Ukraine.

Friday, he played his first career singles match at the ATP Tour level.

And while he showed he definitely had some game, Pervolarakis was overpowered 6-1, 6-3 by Auger-Aliassime, who is ranked 678 spots higher than Smirnov.

Here’s what it looked like.

“It truly feels good to be back on the court. With the injury I had a longer pre-season, was able to train well to get fit, and I just felt like I was doing some good things, practicing well, but the first match you don’t know what to expect,” Auger-Aliassime said.

“I didn’t know the opponent, also, so that’s a factor that is always challenging when you’re a player and so I tried to focus on what I had to do. But I was happy that overall in the match I had a great first set, couldn’t ask any better, and I was able to be solid in the second. So overall very happy to be back.”

Shapo v Tsitsi an early-season challenge

In a typical season-opening run towards the Australian Open in Melbourne, a player like Shapovalov, ranked No. 15, generally is going to get a lower-ranked player in a regular 250-level ATP Tour event. Maybe even an Australian wild card.

But with this format, almost every team’s No. 1 is a top player. That’s sort of the point of the exercise. And it’s definitely a selling point, because the top two singles players are required to play.

And so, first out of the box for Shapovalov, it was Tsitsipas. Rivals from back in their junior days, this was their fourth meeting in the upper levels of the game.

The first came two years ago in the first round of the Australian Open. Shapovalov won in straight sets. They played again in Monte Carlo in 2018 (on clay). Tsitsipas won that one.

And last year in Miami, they played an epic in the fourth round, won by Shapovalov in a third-set tiebreak.

Steady Shapo

On Friday, Shapovalov was just the steadier performer – the one who clearly had made the better adjustment to the conditions.

The Canadian, who had done some off-season training at the IMG Academy in Florida, has already been in Australia for 10 days.

Tsitsipas, although he said it wasn’t the reason he lost, spoke of an “irritation” in his shoulder and wrist. It was an issue he attributed to taking a three-week break after the season and starting up again – and also the change in conditions from Dubai to Brisbane.

In short, he didn’t seem ready for such a big task right out of the gate.

“His serve was better than mine and a few points in the tiebreak … I didn’t work out what I had to do and I didn’t have a clear picture of how I have to play, which I usually have also much more adrenaline and a rush when I’m in the tiebreak. I like playing tiebreaks,” Tsitsipas said. “Today, he was just, you know, better decision-making and he did things better than me.”

Shapovalov up for this one

Unlike Auger-Aliassime, who decided to have personal coach Fred Fontang courtside, Shapovalov went with captain Fuorivia alone. Coach Mikhail Youzhny sat behind them with the rest of the Canadian team.

It made sense, in this case. Fuorivia, who was Shapovalov’s coach as a junior and returned last spring after Shapovalov and Steckley parted ways, probably knows him better than anyone except for his mother Tessa.

At times, the tennis was impressively high level for the opening day of their seasons. It generally is with these two, who both have all-court mentalities and, of course, those sweet one-handed backhands.

“It’s definitely a huge win for me. Obviously, he had an unbelievable end to the season and he’s definitely one of the top players in the world right now. He’s got a great game,” Shapovalov said. “So to beat a guy like this first match of the year, it’s really special for me.”

The other Tsitsipas brother

As at Davis Cup, the rule in the ATP Cup is that the doubles are played even if the outcome is already decided.

(Of course, it was the rule at Davis Cup as well. But with the lack of healthy bodies on a four-man squad, the Canadians decided to forfeit their doubles against the U.S. in the round-robin).

But it took awhile.

The maximum time, if one of the No. 1 singles players is playing the doubles, is 45 minutes after the singles. It took every bit of that time. And in the end, it was Tsitsipas – younger brother Petros – who took the court instead of big brother Stefanos.

Petros, 19, is the No. 5-ranked player in Greece. His ATP Tour ranking is tied with Piotr Matuszewski of Poland at No. 1,415 in the world. He has three ATP ranking points (his brother has 5,300).

In doubles, the younger Tsitsipas did briefly break into the top 1,000 in 2019, peaking at No. 973 in October.

So all this is above his level. Still, peers Auger-Aliassime (also 19) and Shapovalov (20) thought he was the trickier player on the court.

Shapo
Shapovalov, Auger-Aliassime and captain Fuorivia talk to Tennis Channel after sweeping Greece on Day 1 of the ATP Cup. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

“I mean, for me like for his ranking he had a good serve, to be honest. It was not so hard, but precise. Better (touch) than his partner, that’s maybe the similarities,” Auger-Aliassime said after being asked to compare the games of the Greek brothers.

“I was impressed. I think he was definitely the better doubles player on the court and he was doing a good job covering the net, he was a bit more tricky to play against,” Shapovalov said.

Next up: Australia

Shapo

Canada’s next challenge comes Sunday – again at 10 a.m., which is 7 p.m. Saturday night on the east coast in Canada, and 4 p.m. on the west coast.

And this time, they might not be the heavy favorites.

Canada will play Australia, which essentially is the home team in this country vs. country competition.

Australia has the dangerous Nick Kyrgios at No. 2 singles, with the higher-ranked Alex de Minaur at No. 1.

Kyrgios was both humbled and inspired Friday night, as he aced to raise funds for the victims of the bush fires that have been particularly devastating on his hometown of Canberra.

Kyrgios vs. Auger-Aliassime would be a rematch of their dramatic, somewhat contentious, marathon at the Queen’s Club tournament last summer.

A pictorial: FAA v NK

 

Team Canada opens up against Greece in Brisbane

BRISBANE, Australia – The ATP Cup opens Friday in Brisbane with a delectable young guns encounter between Stefanos Tsitsipas and Denis Shapovalov.

But first, a match that is more indicative of what many of the country versus country battles will look like.

Canada’s Félix Auger-Aliassime, age 19 and ranked No. 21, takes on Michail Pervolarakis, ranked No. 487 at age 23.

It’s a major mismatch on paper. But you never know what will happen on the court – especially as it’s the first match of the season for Auger-Aliassime.

The Canadian No. 2 has played just once since early October, when he came on in the final of the Davis Cup in Madrid and lost to Roberto Bautista-Agut of Spain.

Here’s what Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime looked like early this morning, when they warmed up on the stadium court.

Elsewhere on the grounds, teammates Peter Polansky and Steven Diez hit together, and doubles specialist Adil Shamasdin also had a hit.

Mismatch coming?

Here’s the scoreboard test the tournament had up all afternoon on Thursday.

We’ll see if that turns out to be prescient.

Greece

China … wait for us. We’re coming!

The fall Asian swing on the ATP Tour begins this week.

But the $1 million-plus events in Chengdu and Zhuhai (relocated from Shenzhen) have pretty slim orders of play on Monday.

There are only three singles matches on the schedule in Chengdu.

Luckily these are 28-player draws. Because the tournaments are waiting for … a lot of people.

To start with, the Laver Cup scooped up a bunch of players who were scheduled to play this week.

And if any of you missed it, it was a pretty emotional and draining experience for just about all involved.

The time difference between Geneva and Metz, and the two Chinese cities is six hours. From St. Petersburg, Russia, it’s five hours.

From Geneva to Chengdu

Four of Team World’s squad in Geneva now have to get to China, get over jet lag, get back to everyday life and try to earn some ranking points.

No. 1 seed John Isner (who played doubles and then singles on Sunday in Geneva and was clearly on fumes). He has a first-round bye.

No. 6 seed Taylor Fritz, who is in singles (and doubles with Nicholas Monroe).

No. 8 seed Denis Shapovalov didn’t see much action on the weekend in Geneva (in part of because of the rules). But he still has to get to China.

Team World alternate Jordan Thompson also has to come from Geneva. He’s also entered in doubles with Shapovalov.

They might have been waiting for No. 2 seed Félix Auger-Aliassime, too, as we’re told he was asked to play Laver Cup. But the Canadian turned it down.

No. 3 seed Benoit Paire said after losing in the Metz singles semifinals that he was sick, on antibiotics, and might not make it.  He has a first-round bye, though, and is still officially in the draw from what we can see. He’s also entered in doubles with Alexander Bublik.

Egor Gerasimov of Belarus made the semifinals in St. Petersburg out of the qualifying. He’s in as a special exempt in Chengdu.

From … everywhere to Zhuhai

No. 1 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas will come from Geneva. 

No. 2 seed Roberto Bautista Agut was an alternate for Team Europe in Geneva.

No. 4 seed Borna Coric played the final in St. Petersburg Sunday, losing to Daniil Medvedev.

Lucas Pouille, seeded No. 5, reached the semis in Metz, France and has to get there.

No. 6 seed Nick Kyrgios had to pull out of the final day of Laver Cup – and a clash against Rafael Nadal – because of a shoulder problem. He’s also supposed to play doubles with Matt Reid.

You’d have to think he’s doubtful. If he passes, Canadian Brayden Schnur is first up as a lucky loser.

No. 4 doubles seeds Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen made the semis in Metz.

Divij Sharan won the doubles title in St. Petersburg with Igor Zelenay. He’s playing with Artem Sitak in Zhuhai.

Even private takes forever

What arrangements the Laver Cup made with the players to get to Asia after the weekend is unknown (no doubt we’ll see some Tweets).

But even flying private, there’s not a huge time savings.

Here are the quickest routes from Geneva (notably, for mere mortals, it costs twice as much to fly to Zhuhai as it does to fly to Chengdu).

"Geneva

"Geneva

Canadians prep for “Canada Day” to open Wimbledon

WIMBLEDON – On the final day of Wimbledon prep, the training centre at adjacent Aorangi Park was lousy with Canadians.

At 1 p.m., Vasek Pospisil practiced with Belgian Ruben Bemelmans, and Genie Bouchard hit with American Madison Brengle, a former charge of Canadian Fed Cup captain Heidi el Tabakh, who is acting as coach this week.

With about 20 minutes left in that hour session, more Canadians took to the new warmup area that contained the girders for the No. 1 Court last year, and had practice courts No. 1 and No. 2 for years before that.

There, Brayden Schnur, Félix Auger-Aliassime, Denis Shapovalov and Milos Raonic warmed up for their 2 p.m. practice sessions.

Shapovalov and Raonic actually practiced together. And right next to them, Auger-Aliassime hit with American Frances Tiafoe.

There were friendly exchanges between Auger-Aliassime’s mother Marie Auger and Raonic’s parents and girlfriend.

Even Erin Routliffe, the New Zealand-born Canadian who moved to Canada at a young age, was on site. Routliffe is an alternate in the women’s doubles draw, with the doubles qualifying having been eliminated this year.

Here’s what it looked like. All that was missing were a few maple leafs sprinkled about the courts.

Say a Canadian “Hiya” to Rog

The next two on Raonic and Shapovalov’s court were … Roger Federer and his old pal Tomas Berdych.

So that got the Canadians a couple of hellos from the man himself.

Auger-Aliassime and Pospisil will square off in an all-Canadian battle – on Canada Day, no less – that should start about 7:30 a.m. EDT.

Raonic will follow on the same Court 12.

Schnur (against Marcos Baghdatis), Shapovalov (against Ricardas Berankis) and Bouchard (against Tamara Zidansek) will play Tuesday.

Tennis (Life) Birthdays – April 15, 2019

Denis Shapovalov has gone and ruined the recent popular narrative about the rise of the “Canadian teen gang” by … turning 20.

His teen years were the story of a spectacular rise up to the top echelons of tennis.

The Israel-born Canadian of Russian extraction was a breath of fresh hair with his flying blonde hair, shotmaking style and energetic court presence.

When you reach the top 20 before turning 20 these days – which Shapovalov did after reaching the Miami semifinals – you’re doing something.

Now the steps get steeper.

Three years ago, Shapovalov and Stefanos Tsitsipas were playing in the French Open juniors. They’ll arrive there this year both seeded in the men’s draw. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

And Shapovalov begins his 20s on the surface he is working hard to tame, one that’s always going to test his patience.

And so it was that he went down in the first round of Monte Carlo to a solid, big-serving opponent, Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany, on his birthday.

Shapovalov
Shapovalov first burst on the scene four years ago in the Australian Open juniors, as arguably the most talented 15-year-old on the planet. His rise was rapid after that. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

With both swinging away in the first set – there were 41 unforced errors in total, 23 of them from Shapovalov – the Canadian managed to pull it out.

But it unraveled quickly after that.

He went down 5-7, 6-3, 6-1.

The 51 unforced errors were evenly divided between forehands and backhands. Add in 10 double faults, and it’s back to the drawing board.

It was a bit of a regression on the performance side, as his patience deserted him after the first set and rather than make Struff do a better job of earning it, he tried to hit his way out of it.

On clay, that’s always a dodgy proposition. On this way, when he was misfiring quite a bit against a good opponent, it sent him packing.

And it was somewhat surprising. Because Shapovalov played a lot on the red clay last year. And he banked a lot of experience it seemed he could put to good use on his second full go-round on the European spring circuit.

A year ago, unseeded, Shapovalov went down to Stefanos Tsitsipas in Monte Carlo and Nikoloz Basilashvili in Budapest, both in the first round.

But he rallied after that, reaching the semis in Madrid as he beat Paire, Raonic and Edmund before falling to Alexander Zverev. Madrid is at altitude, and considered the “fastest” of the clay-court spring events. So it made sense that the Canadian would have his first ATP Tour clay breakthrough there.

Shapovalov
Team Shapo, including new/old coach Fuorivia, left, look on concerned as their guy goes down in flames in the first round of Monte Carlo on his 20th birthday. (TennisTV)

This year, Shapovalov is playing the bigger 500 event in Barcelona instead of Budapest, with an even tougher field. He’ll have a first-round bye in the 48-player draw. And so he’ll have a lot of time to think about it, even as he plays the doubles in Monte Carlo with his friend Félix Auger-Aliassime.

There has been a lot of change for Shapovalov in recent weeks. He and coach Rob Steckley, who himself had only been on board since last fall, parted ways after Miami right as Shapovalov reached his career high.

Fuorivia in, Steckley out on Team Shapo

At his side for the clay is his junior coach Adriano Fuorivia. The plus on that is that the adjustment should be easy, because they already know each other so well. But Shapovalov has evolved since they last worked together, and become a top world player. So there’s work to do.

The Canadian will have three more events before the French Open to figure a few things out.

But one thing he knows: he’ll always celebrate his birthday in Monte Carlo.  Last year, he got a cake. Eventually, undoubtedly, he’ll have something better to celebrate.

Andrei Olhovskiy (RUS), 53

Not a great player, but certainly a pretty good one, with a rankings peak at No. 49 and two career singles titles on the ATP Tour.
6114.olhovskiy Tennis birthdays April 15, 2011

But he made his mark in doubles, getting to No. 6 in the world and winning 20 titles and reaching the final in 20 others. He also won the 1993 French Open and 1994 Australian Open mixed titles.

Olhovskiy won the Rogers Cup in Montreal with Yevgeny Kafelnikov in 1995. But he never really seemed to have a regular partner; perhaps he could take his pick.

In 1996, he won four titles, with four partners (Rick Leach, Martin Damm, Pat Galbraith and Kafelnikov). All pretty good considering he only turned pro when he was 23, and went to university in Russia before that. He represented his country at the Olympics in 1988 and 1996.

In singles, he made a lot of waves at Wimbledon in 1992 when, as a qualifier ranked No. 193, he shocked No. 1 seed Jim Courier in the third round. He was the first qualifier to beat a top seed at a major in the open era. But then, of course, he had to play John McEnroe.

Olhovskiy has stayed in tennis. He has been assistant captain to Shamil Tarpischev for the women’s Fed Cup team, and periodically helped out Elena Dementieva on a one-to-one basis before her retirement.

He also briefly coached Svetlana Kuznetsova early in her career.

Fuorivia in, Steckley out on Team Shapo

What is old is now new again for Denis Shapovalov.

Just as he reached his career high and broke into the top 20 after his semifinal effort at the Miami effort – along comes a coaching change.

Rob Steckley, who joined Team Shapo after last year’s Davis Cup, confirmed to Tennis.Life that the two have ended their association.

Meanwhile, with the clay season about to begin for the Canadian, Steckley’s successor is already on board.

And it’s a familiar face for Shapovalov: Adriano Fuorivia.

Fuorivia was Shapovalov’s coach during his key years in the juniors, through his early steps on the pro tour in 2016.

The two are already working together on the clay in Monte Carlo.

(Note: we were notified by the author this morning that her post appeared prior to the publication of this article. We’re happy to link to it here).

Steckley switch from WTA successful

When Steckley, a 39-year-old fellow Canadian, came on board, it was definitely an out-of-the-box choice. Not because he wasn’t a quality coach, but because he had made his name on the WTA Tour, notably with Lucie Safarova.

He began on last season’s fall Asian swing, with Shapovalov’s mother and coach Tessa also on hand. And continued through the off-season to begin 2019.

Rob Steckley on coaching trial with Shapovalov

Just two weeks ago, the 19-year-old had an outstanding Miami Open as he beat talented young guns Stefanos Tsitsipas and Frances Tiafoe, among others, to reach the semifinals.

He was a little overwhelmed there by the maestro, Roger Federer. But when it was over, Shapovalov had made his long-awaited top-20 debut.

Communication, creativity keys to Shapo-Steckley association

And then, once the Sunshine Double was over. Steckley was out.

coaching change
You could say that Steckley and Shapovalov parted on top, with the 19-year-old having just broken into the top 20 in the ATP Tour rankings. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

Steckley told Tennis.Life they parted on good terms. “It was a great stretch of progress and results. I’m happy with things,” he said.

Fuorivia there at the start

Fuorivia, who was a manager of tennis development for Tennis Canada for 10 years before leaving to work full-time with the promising Shapovalov, was there for the key development years.

He coached Shapovalov to the junior title at Wimbledon, accompanied him during those months slogging on the Florida ITF clay-court circuit qualifying, right through his ATP Tour debut at the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. in 2016.

coaching change
It looks like this Fantastic Four (seen here at the US Open juniors in 2015 when Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime won the boys’ doubles), will be reunited on the dirt. (Stephanie Myles/Tennis.Life)

The coach has since returned to work with Tennis Canada. He was the captain of the junior Davis Cup team last fall.

Fuorivia brought some of the kids down to IMG Academy in Florida during the offseason, where he also reunited with Shapovalov.

View this post on Instagram

Pre Season Vibes 😛 #ImTired😅 #GoodVibes

A post shared by Denis Shapovalov (@denis.shapovalov) on

While fans tend to group the three rising young Canadians – Bianca Andreescu, Félix Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov – together, as the fruit of Tennis Canada’s approach to developing players, Shapovalov was not part of that.

He did it on his own, with financing from benefactor Andrzej Kepinski. (Kepinski also was Shapovalov’s manager, until recently).

Shapovalov did it on his own

And now, Fuorivia is back.

The Denis Shapovalov archives

(Apologies for the original lead photo – since replaced – which I thought was mine but, in fact, was taken by Tom Tebbutt of Tennis Canada).

Bresnik steps back from Team Thiem

A LOT of coaching news as the 2019 clay-court season dawns.

Top-20 Canadian Denis Shapovalov has parted ways with Rob Steckley and is back with former coach Adriano Furorivia, .

Also, in the last week, Dominic Thiem has confirmed some big moves.

There’s a certain commonality between the two bits of news.

Both are coming off a spectacular result during the Sunshine Double.

Shapovalov reached the semifinals in Miami. Thiem shocked Roger Federer in the final (after beating Milos Raonic in a marathon in the semis) and won Indian Wells

Both have made coaching changes going into the clay season, as Nicolas Massu will become the main coach as Thiem’s lifelong coach Günter Bresnik takes a step back.

As it happens, back in late 2016 when “new” Shapovalov Adriano Fuorivia was still on board, Shapovalov went to Tenerife, Spain and did a trial with Bresnik during the off-season.

It was a short-lived one, as Shapovalov injured his ankle. And Bresnik already had his hands full.

Like a parent, raise them to leave the nest

Bresnik speaks (a bit cryptically) about the change to the Austrian Press Association (all quotes directly through Google Translate as our German isn’t up to snuff).

“Dominic is 26 this year and is still partially perceived in public as if he were a small child,” Bresnik said in an Austria Presse Agentur interview published in Der Standard. “I’ve always said my ultimate goal as a coach is that Dominic is independent and completely independent.”

The Indian Wells was an unexpectedly great result after a slow start to the 2019 season, notably the lack of wins on Thiem’s bread-and-butter South American clay-court circuit.

Thiem had a lingering illness, never fully disclosed but that had as one consequence overall body pain. He even skipped Austria’s Davis Cup qualifier in February.

Thiem
Massu remains as Chile’s Davis Cup captain. His team reached the finals by defeating Austria in February – a win, ironically, that might not have happened had Austria had Thiem on the roster. Immediately after that, Massu joined the team in South America.

Massu to the fore for clay

Massu, who began helping Thiem during that South American swing and also accompanied him on on the U.S. swing, will be there as the main coach for the European clay-court season.

Except, the Bresnik APA interview indicated, in Barcelona, because of a previous commitment. Thiem’s father will be there with him.

“What’s in two months, I do not know, but the Dominic is good with Nicolas Massu. It is crucial that he plays successfully tennis,” Bresnik said in an APA interview last week. “I’ve been looking for a touring coach for Dominic for two years, this time we’ve tried Nicolas Massu and it works.”

Bresnik still coaches Ernests Gulbis. So he would likely still be in Paris for the French Open.

Plus, he remains Thiem’s manager. So he’s far from out of the picture.

Another piece on SPOX.com after a Thiem media availability last week indicated that Thiem has added fitness coach Duglas Cordero for some 15 weeks during the season, to join physio Alex Stober.

Cordero, who has worked with Fabio Fognini and Francesca Schiavone among other players, is based in Miami.

So from the looks of it, Thiem is not subtracting or changing – he’s adding.

At 25, ranked No. 5, he’s approaching his peak. And with so many young kids coming up these days, it’s time to stake his claim and make the big move.

A lifelong coach

In some ways, it’s a surprising development. In most ways, not so much.

When Bresnik began coaching Thiem, he was a boy. Now he’s a 26-year-old man. 

Think about how your relationship with your father would have changed over all that time. It is a hard transition to make from guru and all-knowing coach to mere employee, in a sense.

The way Bresnik put it: in the early part of a career, the coach is everything. During that transition to the pro tour, they are more or less equals. But after that, it’s all about the player and not the coach.

“It’s clear after 15 or 16 years that we spent more time together than I did with my parents and he probably with his children, it’s like being in a marriage, there are good and bad times,” Thiem said. “It is, I think, now good that Massu extends the team and everything. We’ll see more later.”

Fuorivia in, Steckley out on Team Shapo

Shapovalov talks about “Big Three” influence (video)

Denis Shapovalov’s remarks about how he looked up to Roger Federer when he was a kid got a lot of play last week at the Miami Open.

The fact that the 19-year-old was to play Federer in the semifinals had everything to do with that.

But in that same press conference, the Canadian teen expounded on the influence that all three members of the “Big Three” had on him growing up.

He looked at all of their games with an analytical eye.

And Shapovalov has tried to take something from all of them, and emulate it on the court.

Here are his thoughts on each of them.

On Federer:

On Djokovic:

On Nadal:

 

Contrast in reactions after Miami Open SF defeats (video)

Canadian kids Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov had contrasting reactions to their semifinal defeats at the Miami Open.

Which makes complete sense, given how differently both of those matches played out.

Auger-Aliassime had an opportunity to serve out both sets against American John Isner.

So it was an big opportunity lost. Isner had been broken just twice in all his previous matches. And the 18-year-old did it twice in one match.

Shortly after the match, Auger-Aliassime still almost couldn’t believe how the nerves hit him at just the wrong time.

Shapovalov has joked before the match against Federer that his best tactic would be to put on a pair of sunglasses that would blur the opponent on the other side of the net so he couldn’t see who he was playing. 

So you could almost see it coming. Still, he took it beautifully.

You know that the next time Shapovalov has the opportunity to play Federer, he will be far less … star-struck and will give a much better account of himself.

Here’s Auger-Aliassime.

And here’s Shapovalov.