Wimbledon 2021: Murray's next opponent is thrilled to be playing "the old Andy"
The man standing in the way of Andy Murray winning through to the second week of Wimbledon says he grew up hoping for the chance to stand across the net from him on Centre Court.
And after the great Scot’s heroics this week Denis Shapovalov, the tournament’s 10th seed from Canada, is thrilled to be playing “the old Andy Murray” in their third-round contest in the early-evening prime-time slot.
“It’s a great moment for me,” the 22-year-old Shapovalov said. “It’s going to be my first time on Centre Court so it’s super-exciting for me and my career. It’s definitely a match I grew up wanting to play, Andy in the spotlight like this. It’s going to be a lot of fun out there.”
Shapovalov was part of the big TV audience on Wednesday night as Murray triumphed in yet another blockbuster, overcoming Germany’s Oscar Otte in five sets. “Honestly, it was fun to watch,” he said. “As a fan of Andy, to see him back and moving so well, especially in those last two sets, how he turned it around, it felt like he was the player he was a couple of years back and that was so exciting.
“He’s been hurt for a lot and the recovery has been difficult but, really, it looked like the old Andy out there. As a fan, not an opponent that was fun to see - just awesome. It brought back a lot of memories for me from when he was dominant and playing so well.”
Shapovalov was 14 when Murray won his first Wimbledon title in 2013 but already an exciting prospect. And at the 2016 championships when Murray repeated his success, Shapovalov was on the podium himself as the All England’s junior champ.
Though he plays under Canada’s maple leaf, Shapovalov is the Tel Aviv-born, Bahamas-based son of a Greek father and a Russian mother. The latter, Tessa, is a former player who set up her own training academy when her son couldn’t get enough court-time at the local club in Ontario.
Shapovalov didn’t waste any time making a noise at Masters level when, a year after his juniors success, he beat Rafa Nadal and Juan Martin del Potro in a run to the semis of the Canadian Open. But 2017 also brought him notoriety when, playing in the Davis Cup for Canada against Great Britain, he smashed a ball in anger which struck the umpire, Arnaud Gabas, who suffered a fractured eye socket. He was disqualified and fined.
Shapovalov knows he will be up against it when he tussles with a tennis icon on Centre, the arena Murray loves the most in front of a partisan support, but the challenger is ready, believing he’s improving on grass having last month reached the semis at Queen’s.
“Andy seems to be back in some really, really good shape but I’m focusing on my game and what I can do,” he added. “Andy is well-known for being a great fighter and I’m hoping it’s going to be a long match, a long battle. That’s what I love to play for and I’m ready to go.”
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