As part of our series previewing 2020 on the ATP Tour, emerging star Denis Shapovalov is tipped to make a swift move into the world’s top 10.
Denis Shapovalov has always looked like a player destined to compete with the very best.
At the end of this year, the 20-year-old is starting to deliver on that promise.
Going into 2020, Shapovalov is ranked 15 in the world and it would be a real surprise if he was not in the top 10 by the early months of the new campaign.
For much of 2019, it had looked like the Canadian would ultimately suffer a frustrating 12 months that would not see him make the strides many expected.
A creditable start saw him reach the third round of the Australian Open, where it took Novak Djokovic to remove him from the tournament.
He had a run to the semi-finals of the Miami Open and this time it was eventual winner Roger Federer who ended his campaign at an event which provided tangible signs of progress.
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But Shapovalov’s year stalled to halt when Jan-Lennard Struff dismissed him in straight sets in the first round of the French Open.
A worse loss was to come at the next Grand Slam, Wimbledon, when another 3-0 defeat, this time to Ricardas Berankis, again saw him exit at the first hurdle.
The end of 2019, though, was when Shapovalov laid the foundations for what will likely be a bigger breakthrough next year.
He reached the semi-final of the Winston-Salem Open and then, as an unseeded player, impressively knocked out compatriot Felix Auger-Aliassime on his way to the third round of the US Open.
Gael Monfils, who enjoyed a great year on hard courts, sent Shapovalov packing at Flushing Meadows, but only after edging a gruelling five-set battle.
Not to be deterred, Shapovalov won his first ATP Tour title at the Stockholm Open in October. It was not the strongest field and the left-hander won the event without having to face a seed, but it was a crucial milestone.
The way Shapovalov won in Stockholm was impressive, not dropping a single set during the week, including his win in the final over Filip Krajinovic.
With the initial signs working alongside new coach Mikhail Youzhny continuing to look positive, another star turn came at the Paris Masters.
Shapovalov reached his first Masters 1000 final, earning high-profile wins along the way against big names in Fabio Fognini and Alexander Zverev, while he also avenged that US Open defeat by toppling Monfils.
Rafael Nadal then withdrew from their last-four encounter to put him straight into the final, where beating Djokovic ultimately proved a step too far.
Not done yet, he continued his late-season momentum and helped Canada to their first-ever appearance in a Davis Cup final, carrying the load at the Madrid Finals along with Vasek Pospisil in singles and doubles.
The heavy workload was due to fitness issues for Auger-Aliassime and Milos Raonic, who had to miss the tournament entirely.
Denis Shapovalov is among a group of emerging stars whose fans hope will start to mix it with the big three of Federer, Nadal and Djokovic, the players who continue to dominate at Grand Slams with the Swiss star’s record total of 20 looking vulnerable.
Whether he can make a huge step in majors as early as next year is uncertain, given he has only once before made it to the last 16 of a Grand Slam (in the 2017 US Open).
But most of the points Shapovalov will defend in 2020 will be towards the end the year and because his performances in the majors, the most valuable when it comes to rankings, were relatively weak in 2019, he does have a magnificent opportunity to make further upward moves.
Based on his current trajectory, fitness permitting, it is hard not to see Denis Shapovalov making a swift move into the top 10.
From there, Canada will dare to dream he can reach the same heights as Bianca Andreescu.