Shapovalov: Just want to play smart tennis

It’s the first time the 21-year-old Denis Shapovalov is the No. 1 seed in an ATP Tour tournament, and it also marks the first time in the ATP Tour era (since 1990) the Top 2 seeds are Canadians. Shapovalov is ranked No. 12, and he has an opportunity to finish in the Top 10 with an intense week. The Canadian is already in Sofia and met virtually with the local press:

Denis, what are your first impressions from Sofia and what are your expectations for the tournament?

The tournament is very nice. They are doing very good job for the players. It is my first time in Bulgaria, but it seems like I got a lot of love and fans here. It is always amazing coming to countries where you have a lot of supporters. I am glad that I will play this tournament. No expectations. Just want to play smart tennis, and I am very excited to be here.

How do you feel mentally and physically, and what do you want to achieve this week? 

I feel great, and I had a good break. I feel fresh, good, practising well. So I feel good and excited for the tournament.

Maybe you can say something about your first opponent – Radu Albot?

He is very tough opponent. I think anyone in the draw here is very difficult. Every tournament this year was very strong. Definitely, there are no easy matches. But like I said, I have been practising well, and I feel really well, so I am excited to get going.

It is your first time No 1 seeded player in an ATP tournament. What is the feeling?

It is definitely amazing. I am trying not to look that much to this, of course. There are so many difficult opponents in the tournament. I think it is going to be a really tough tournament to get through. I am just trying to get it match by match. I am trying not to look too much in this and just try to focus on my opponents.

If you lift the trophy the final day, can you sing something to the local crowd? Please, promise to the Bulgarian fans…

(Laughing) No promises. I got still a long way to get there. Maybe, when I get there…

You reached top 10 ranking this season. Do you think you are playing your best tennis of your career and what enabled you to reach such heights in 2020?

Yeah, of course, I feel like I have been paying some really good tennis and I am really happy and wait the season to end. Of course, it was a little bit difficult in the end. I am getting a little bit physically tired and have some issues. But I think I played really well after the season came back. I am really happy with my game, and I feel definitely I improved and definitely feel that my level is with these guys, these players. For sure I mean I feel like I am close to it and if I’m not able to reach top 10 this season, I will definitely I will try to go for it next season. But the important thing is that I feel that my level is with these guys and I am able to compete with anyone.

You are No1 seed, and Felix is No 2. How exciting is this for the tennis sport in Canada?

Definitely great for Canada and for tennis in Canada. It is amazing to see us both at the top. Hopefully, this continues and inspires a lot of Canadian kids and hopefully keeps advancing this sport in the country.

Yesterday you helped the warm-up of the Bulgarian youngster Adrian Andreev. You are friends, tell us more about him.

Yeah, definitely interesting guy. He is quite funny. We spent much time together in Florida, during the lockdown. Practising and stuff. So I definitely got to know him and his mother and his team – really nice people. Good people. During the warm-up, he came to me and said: “Dude, I am so nervous before the match. It is a big moment for me; there is a lot of pressure.” I was like: “Man, relax. You are young. You are playing – this is all you’ve been dreaming of doing. I know it is a home playing this tournament, so just enjoy the moment.” I know it is easier for me saying this. I remember myself three-four years ago as in the same position, and I was talking to myself: “Oh, my God, I have to play so good”. So it is pretty funny to see from aside. But he is an amazing player, and I am sure that he is going to rise through the ranking. He’s got game and potential, so he is definitely one player to look for in the future.

Denis, what are your plans after this tournament – to go back in Canada to practice for Australian Open, elsewhere?

I think it is pretty tough for players to prepare for Australia since we don’t know what is going on and the dates. So it is impossible for me to say what I’m going to do. Because nobody knows what is going on. I don’t know how many time I have. There is no information for the players. It is tough to plan anything now. I understand they are trying their best. There are some issues with the government. It is difficult for players. I honestly got no idea what I am going to do.

Who do you associate the Bulgarian sport with?

I don’t know. What is your national sport here?

So, maybe you know Grigor Dimitrov?

Oh, of course. Yeah. Grigor is around for so many years. He is an amazing player. I fell he definitely brought a lot to Bulgarian tennis. I see so many young guys coming up from Bulgaria like Adrian. It is pretty amazing what he’s been able to do for the country. It is nice. Even the facility here. That is really beautiful. The stadium here…they have done such a great job. The practice court too. I don’t remember what the place was called, but it is super nice. Nice courts, nice place. It is pretty nice to see that tennis is so nice here.