There are certain tennis players that make their way to the professional ranks that everyone has high hopes for. Among those players is Canadian-born Denis Shapovalov, who made his professional debut in 2017 and within just a year was already one of the highest-ranked players in the world. Despite being a professional for several years already, Shapovalov is still very young and has a lot of time to build on his already impressive resume. He’s a fascinating player to watch on and off the court for many reasons. Here are 10 things you didn’t know about Denis Shapovalov that make him so interesting to follow.
1. He’s One of Three Canadians to Crack the Top Ten
While its neighbor to the south is more known for its tennis history, there have still been some fine Canadian players to make the pro ranks. Despite being so young, Shapovalov has already cemented himself as one of the country’s best ever. That’s because in late 2020, Shapovalov reached the top 10 of the world rankings. It was just the second time a Canadian had ever done that. Since reaching number 10, a third Canadian has accomplished the feat with Felix Auger-Aliassime doing so in 2022, which means Shapovalov’s highest ranking is the third highest in Canadian history.
2. He’s Also One of Just Two Tennis Players to Win a Prestigious Award
Each year in Canada, the Lionel Conacher Award is given out to the top male athlete in the country. The award, which was named for the man who played both professional football and hockey, was first handed out in 1932. Since its inception, the Lionel Conacher Award has been given to a tennis player just twice. The first time came in 2013 when Milos Raonic won after reaching the world’s top 10 rankings, then Shapovalov took home the title in 2017. Interestingly, only one hockey player has won the award since 2010 (Carey Price in 2015).
3. He’s Not Actually From Canada
Though he represents the country of Canada and has citizenship there, Shapovalov wasn’t actually born in Canada, nor does he live there currently. Shapovalov was born in Tel Aviv, Israel in 1999 after his parents had left the Soviet Union following its demise. It was in Tel Aviv that his professional tennis player mother became a coach, and shortly after Denis was born the family packed up and moved to Canada. For most of his young life, Shapovalov lived in Ontario and now lives in the Bahamas.
4. He Raps in His Free Time
Not many people knew a few years ago that Shapovalov was a rapper while off the court until 2019. It was at the Indian Wells Masters that year that Shapovalov agreed to perform in front of the live crowd if he were victorious. Shapovalov took home the win in impressive fashion but said his performance on the microphone wasn’t up to par. That doesn’t mean that Shapovalov gave up on rap, though, as he’s still releasing tunes inspired by the likes of Eminem and Drake. In August 2020, he released his first official single titled “Night Train”.
5. His Girlfriend is Also a Pro
In the same year that he introduced himself to the world as a rapper, Shapovalov also began a high-profile relationship. It was during that summer of 2019 that Shapovalov started dating Mirjam Bjorklund, a professional player from Sweden. Bjorklund was born in 1998, and is looking to crack the top 100 in the world rankings. In 2022, she appeared in all four Grand Slam tournaments in some capacity, qualifying for the main tournaments at the French Open and Wimbledon. Thus far, Bjorklund has earned over $350,000 in career prize money.
6. He’s Searching For His First Grand Slam Final
Like his girlfriend, Shapovalov is looking to reach the proverbial mountaintop by reaching a Grand Slam final. He came so very close in 2021 at Wimbledon when he was the 10th seed, knocking out Karen Khachanov in the quarterfinals. In his lone semifinals Grand Slam appearance thus far, though, Shapovalov would lose to eventual champion Novak Djokovic in straight sets. As for the other Grand Slam events, he’s reached the second round of the French Open twice while making it to the quarterfinals at both the Australian and US Opens.
7. He’s Fluent in Two Languages and Can Speak Four
Because of his extensive family background, Shapovalov has become a linguist in many ways. Growing up in Ontario, Shapovalov quickly learned to speak English, and is also fluent in Russian due to his parents being from the former Soviet Union. Shapovalov has even given interviews in Russian. While not quite as fluent as he is in English and Russian, Shapovalov can also speak a little bit of French and Hebrew. Don’t be surprised if he adds Swedish to that list at some point due to his relationship.
8. He’s Already Earned Some Big Bucks
Think about how much money you had made in your life by the time you were 23 years old. It probably wasn’t in the millions, but that’s been the case for Shapovalov. With nearly $9.5 million in career earnings already, it seems that the sky’s the limit for Shapovalov’s net worth. In addition to his winnings on the court, Shapovalov has also earned quite a bit through endorsement deals from companies like Nike, TAG Heuer, and Yonex to name a few.
9. He Was The Youngest Top 30 Player in 13 Years
For most professional players, it takes years and years of playing to even sniff the top 30. That wasn’t the case for Shapovalov, who was still just a teenager when he cracked the top 30 for the first time in 2018. The ranking came after his performance at the Madrid Open that year, reaching the semifinals. It also made him the youngest player to obtain an elite top 30 ranking since Frenchman Richard Gasquet did so in 2005 Between the rankings and the money, it’s safe to say Shapovalov’s career is off to a good start.
10. His Coach Left Andy Murray To Train Him
When a young tennis prodigy starts making their way through the ranks, they tend to pair themselves with some familiar names on their coaching staff. Shapovalov is no exception and worked with former professionals like Martin Laurendeau early in his career. Since then, Shapovalov has been coached by the likes of Mikhail Youzhny before being coached by British coach Jamie Delgado. Delgado had been working with fellow Brit Andy Murray, and the early returns were excellent. “He’s done an incredible job with me,” Shapovalov said. “Just the way he communicates with everyone.” Oddly enough, though, Delgado and Shapovalov would part ways in 2022.