It’s the greatest challenge of Denis Shapovalov’s career. It’s also one of immense opportunity.
The 22-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., will take centre stage Friday at the All England Club as he prepares to showdown with world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the semifinals at Wimbledon.
On paper, it’s being viewed by the tennis world as a mismatch. There’s not just a gap between the two players in experience and pedigree – it’s undoubtedly a chasm.
Djokovic has won an astounding 84 career titles and 19 grand slams across his illustrious 18-year career. Shapovalov has one ATP title since going pro in 2017.
Djokovic is preparing to play his 41st career grand slam semifinal and 10th from the All England Club. Friday will be Shapovalov’s grand slam semifinal debut.
Djokovic is again chasing more tennis history, seeking a record-tying 20th grand slam title, which would put him in a dead heat with fellow greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.
His march towards being deemed the undisputed greatest of all time has been a relentless charge on the tennis circuit the past few seasons, tallying crowns at four of the last six major titles while reigning as world No. 1 for a record 328 weeks.
Djokovic is a massive favourite to win this year’s edition of Wimbledon and add more hardware to his already overflowing trophy set.
So how does Shapovalov, who is 12th in the rankings and a first-time major semifinalist, counteract the challenge of being such a significant underdog?
He will not approach it with a defeatist attitude.
“When you walk out on that match, the score is 0-0,” Shapovalov said following his five-set victory over Karen Khachanov in the quarterfinals.
“It’s a tennis match. Anything can happen. I do believe I have the game to beat him and the game to win that match.”