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Sports by Bruce Penton
Canada has a new sports star with a name that looks like a combination of French and Russian.
Denis Shapovalov burst onto the professional tennis scene like a bolt of lightning, wowing the tennis world in August with an upset victory over world No. 1 Rafael Nadal in Montreal’s Rogers Cup, going on to lose in the semi-final, and then becoming the youngest player in almost 30 years to reach the fourth round at the U.S. Open in New York in September. He lost in the round of 16, but he won thousands of fans on both sides of the border.
Shapovalov is only 18, with long shaggy blond hair that flows out from around his Nike baseball cap, worn backwards, to give at first glance the impression that he’s an Avril Lavigne Sk8er Boi. He joins Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard atop the list of Canadian tennis stars to watch. Retired tennis great Mats Wilander gave the highest praise to Shapovalov, calling his talent a combination of ‘Federer and Nadal’. Former U.S. great Brad Gilbert says the sky’s the limit for Shapovalov, saying he could potentially be the No. 1 player in the world. The master of nicknames, Gilbert calls the Canadian star ‘Shapshot’ — merging part of the youngster’s name with a takeoff on one of the most famous hockey movies.” How Canadian, eh? The kid, however, prefers ‘Shapo’.
But who is Denis Shapvalov and what’s his backstory?
The tennis world just didn’t pop open a can of yellow balls, crack one open and see Shapovalov roll out. He has worked his way up, reaching new mountains ever since he was 13. At 16, he won the Wimbledon junior singles and teamed with Felix Auger-Aliassime to win the U.S. open junior doubles. The tennis world knew all about Shapovalov long before Sammy Sports Fan in Canada started to pay attention.
Shapovalov was born in Israel but moved to Canada with his parents when he was one year old. His mother, Tessa, who runs a tennis club in Vaughn, Ont., remains one of his co-coaches.
He might not have McDavid or Bautista name recognition quite yet, but he’s gaining. People are stopping him in airports, seeking autographs, and he’ll undoubtedly have votes cast in his favour when Canadian sports reporters determine our country’s outstanding athlete of the year.
After starting the year ranked 250th in the world (he was 1,162 at the end of the previous year), Shapovalov has risen to the top 70. He’s heading toward the top — with a bullet, just like his serve.
• Comedy writer Alex Kaseberg: “The Detroit Lions have signed QB Matt Stafford to a $135 million deal. Which is pretty amazing considering Stafford has won just as many playoff games as Kendall Jenner.”
• Greg Cote of the Miami Herald: “Serena Williams had a baby girl, launching a million ‘G.O.A.T. has kid’ references on social media, with each user thinking he dreamed up the phrase.”
• Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel: “Everybody I talk to keeps saying that if Blake Bortles struggles again this season, he will be done as the quarterback of the Jacksonville Jaguars. In other words, I guess you could say that this is a Make-or-Blake season.”
• Bob Molinaro of pilotonline.com (Hampton, Va.): “Miami signed Jay Cutler. Apparently ownership was impressed by all the passes he completed to Dolphin cornerbacks when he played for Chicago.”
• Brad Dickson of the Omaha World-Herald: “There are allegations the Red Sox cheated in a game against the Yankees. So this is how World War III will begin.”
• Comedy writer Jim Barach: “LaVar Ball will play a role in the video game ‘NBA2K18.’ Apparently he will be the guy running up and down the sidelines trying to sell everyone some overpriced shoes.”
• Another one from Barach: “The Red Sox are expected to get a slap on the wrist over stealing signs using an Apple Watch. The part that hurt was when Bill Belichick gave them only a ‘3’ for originality.”
• RJ Currie of sportsdeke.com: “Arland Bruce III has asked the Canadian Supreme Court to allow his concussion suit against the CFL. Trying to get money from the CFL? The guy really does need his head examined.”
• Jimmy Fallon of NBC’s ‘The Tonight Show’: “The New York Jets are 1000-to-1 longshots to win the Super Bowl. That means if you bet just one dollar... you will lose just one dollar.”
• Alex Kaseberg again: “Did you see Roger Goodell get booed at New England? Michael Vick got a better reception at the Westminster Dog Show.”
• Headline at TheKicker.com: “Bills fans doing two-a-day drinking sessions to prepare for season.”
• Brad Dickson again, after a local man was arrested on suspicion of running a cockfighting operation: “You might be a redneck if ... you bought season tickets.”
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