(Reuters) - Canadian Denis Shapovalov took the tennis world by storm last week with a run to the semi-finals in Montreal that included a win over Rafa Nadal and the teenage sensation is now eager to replicate that success on a much bigger stage.
Having already achieved the goals he set for this year, the 18-year-old is oozing confidence in his bid to qualify for the Aug. 28-Sept. 10 U.S. Open and keep his magical season alive.
Shapovalov, who rocketed 76 spots higher to 67th in the world rankings this week, said his march to the Montreal semis, where he lost to eventual champion Alexander Zverev of Germany, gave him the belief that he can beat even the best players.
“I fought in that match (against Nadal) and I got a lot of confidence when I broke him in the second set and that really gave me the belief that ... I do belong on the court with these guys and I can compete with them,” Shapovalov told a conference call on Thursday.
“Obviously I still have a lot of work to do to make sure that I can compete with them week in and week out but hopefully I can get there soon.”
Shapovalov, who was born in Israel and moved to Canada before his first birthday, started the year hovering around 250th in the rankings and set two main goals for 2017: crack the world’s top 150 and win a Challenger event.
While he has crossed both goals off his list, it has not all been smooth sailing this year for Canada’s latest tennis hope.
Shapovalov made international headlines in February for inadvertently blasting a ball into an umpire’s face in a fit of rage during the deciding rubber in a Davis Cup quarter-final.
He was defaulted for his moment of madness and later said he would never have been able to forgive himself if the umpire had been seriously injured by his antics.
However, all that suddenly seems like a distant memory and now Shapovalov hopes to parlay his magical week in Montreal into a ticket to the year’s final grand slam tournament in New York.
“It’s been a long ride and I’ve been slowly getting better,” said Shapovalov. “Obviously there is a lot more room to improve ... but I am really happy with the progress I’ve done.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; editing by Ken Ferris