Denis Shapovalov enters the 2023 Australian Open as a previous quarterfinalist, losing to eventual winner Rafael Nadal 3-2 in 2022. He also beat Alexander Zverev in straight sets on that run. However it has been a bumpy year since then, from changing coaches, serve problems and emotional outbursts in Rome. Shapovalov has dropped down to 22nd in the world rankings, and needs to kick off the year in strong fashion, not just for his own confidence but his ranking points too.
One factor that will dictate how far Shapovalov will go is his unorthodox ball toss. The Canadian has a tendency to toss the ball behind himself, making the serve awkward, this correlates to be one of the biggest double fault hitters on the tour. Shapovalov hit 305 double faults last year in 54 singles matches, averaging 5.6 double faults per match. This impacts his mentality at times; his double faults seem to occur at big moments in matches.
Shapovalov this year may benefit from the apparent quicker conditions. John Millman tweeted that the 2023 AO Dunlop balls were light and quick, added in with the Melbourne heat, we can expect fast conditions. This should suit Shapovalov’s style, with his game very much reliant on powerful serves and groundstrokes.
Although there is obvious chinks in the armour on Denis Shapovalov, there is still the likelihood that he does make a deep run and trouble the big names. It is not uncharacteristic for him to be at the tail end of Grand Slams–he has previously made a semifinal at Wimbledon and a quarterfinal at the US Open. The tournament itself is missing World #1 Carlos Alcaraz, and there are question marks over the fitness of Rafael Nadal and Alexander Zverev. This could potentially open the door to Top 25 players like Shapovalov to put on a career best showing at the Australian Open.
The 20th seed Canadian has been drawn against Dusan Lajovic in the first round. His projected ride to the final could look like the following:
Round 1 – Dusan Lajovic
Round 2 -Taro Daniel
Round 3 – Hubert Hurkacz
Round 4 – Daniil Medvedev
Quarterfinals – Rafael Nadal
Semifinals – Stefanos Tsitsipas/Felix Auger-Aliassime/Jannik Sinner
Final – Novak Djokovic
Main Photo from Getty.