PARIS (Reuters) - Considering the spotlight now beamed on teenager Denis Shapovalov he could be excused the occasional post-loss sulk, but his mature reaction to defeat at the French Open on Thursday augurs well for his future.
The 19-year-old Canadian’s meteoric rise meant he arrived for his Roland Garros debut seeded 24 and with a potential fourth-round clash with 10-times champion Rafael Nadal already being earmarked for prime time viewing.
But Germany’s 22-year-old Maximillian Marterer put paid to that with a well-earned 5-7 7-6(4) 7-5 6-4 second round victory on the Court 1 bullring - the world number 70 displaying a more clinical edge when his chances came along.
The 82 unforced errors Shapovalov made during the contest did not help his cause.
On this occasion the flashing winners, 52 of them in total, could not quite tip the balance his way.
Some of the most respected voices in tennis predict Grand Slam titles ahead for the straggly-haired, Israel-born Canadian but patience and a sense of perspective will be required.
Shapovalov clearly has both.
“I’m disappointed with the loss, but like I said, I’m only 19, so not every week is going to be a semi-finals,” Shapovalov, who is coached by his mother Tessa and Canada Davis Cup captain Martin Laurendeau, told reporters.
“It’s going to be ups and downs. I just have to keep enjoying it, keep enjoying the journey.”
Last year Shapovalov cracked the top 200, top 100 and became the youngest player to rise into the top 50 since Nadal in 2004.
He reached the Montreal Masters semi-final in 2017 and while his game is best-suited to hardcourts, he made the Madrid semi-finals this month, raising his hopes for Roland Garros.
His inexperience on the clay surface showed against Marterer, occasionally trying to pull the pin too early in rallies.
But he is determined to master the dirt surface.
“You run into guys that are playing well, playing hot. In Madrid it was me, today it was Max,” he said.
“I feel like my game does suit this court. And I feel like in the future I could get really good on it.
“I’m pretty excited about that. I’m pretty excited to come back next year and play all these clay tournaments again.”
The good news for those who drool over his lavish groundstrokes is that he will not look to tame his style.
“I think I have to keep my character on the court, keep my game style, you know, which is being aggressive, dictating, coming to the net a lot,” he said.
“Definitely a bit more patience is going to be better for me, just staying with these guys, opening up the court more, stuff like this. But at the end of the day I still have to keep my identity, keep my game style.”
Shapovalov’s game began to fray in the middle of the second set when a double-fault at 3-3 gave Marterer the break.
The German, also playing in the main draw for the first time, faltered when serving for the second set at 5-4 but he made no mistake in the tiebreak.
Another double-fault gave Marterer a set point at 5-6 in the third and while Shapovalov found the line with a forehand to stave it off Marterer converted a second with a superb backhand.
Marterer saved break points at 2-2 and 4-4 in the fourth set and broke to love to claim victory.
Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Peter Graff and Susan Fenton