NEW YORK (Reuters) - Denis Shapovalov, the hottest new act to hit the Big Apple, takes centre stage at the U.S. Open on Friday and will take on Britain’s Kyle Edmund for a place in the fourth round.
Former world number one Mats Wilander has described 18-year-old Shapovalov as a combination of Roger Federer and Rafa Nadal, high praise indeed for a young man whose only claim to fame was being disqualified from Canada’s Davis Cup tie with Britain after he accidentally struck the chair umpire with the ball in a fit of anger.
Edmund was the beneficiary of that temper tantrum, taking the victory for Britain while Shapovalov slumped off the court in shame and later received a fine.
In the months since, Shapovalov has gone from shame to stardom, setting the tennis world abuzz with a dazzling array of skills and on-court panache.
He has pulled off a string of upsets including back-to-back victories in Montreal over former U.S. Open champions Rafa Nadal and Juan Martin Del Potro.
He claimed another major scalp on Wednesday by taking down eighth seeded Frenchman Jo-Wilfried Tsonga in front of a captivated crowd at Arthur Ashe stadium, cementing his status as this year’s U.S. Open darling.
“I think every win that I’ve been going through, it’s been silencing anyone’s doubts or even my own doubts, whether or not I belong,” said Shapovalov. “I belong with these guys, playing these high level tournaments.
“It’s going to be another battle against Kyle. I’m going to do the best I can to take it to him.”
The 69th ranked Canadian should be the underdog, if rankings are to be believed, but it is hard to find anyone strolling the sprawling Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in the 42nd ranked Edmund’s corner.
The 22-year-old Edmund found good form in the leadup to reach the semi-finals of the U.S. Open tuneup in Winston-Salem, having crashed out in the first round of Montreal and Cincinnati.
But it would be hard to find a hotter player on the ATP Tour than his opponent.
“I’m playing Kyle Edmund who is so solid,” said Shapovalov, who defeated the Briton at Queens, their only ATP match apart from the Davis Cup. “He goes for his shots.
“He’s not afraid to take it to the guy. There’s no easy matches here.”
Reporting by Steve Keating in New York. Editing by Ian Ransom