By John Delong
Dennis Shapovalov has a newfound passion for the game again, and it was clearly on display on Tuesday night in the Winston-Salem Open.
Shapovalov cruised to an impressive 6-2, 6-4 second-round victory over Tennys Sandgren in his Winston-Salem debut, and afterward he talked about regaining the spark in his game over the past few weeks.
The 20-year-old Canadian felt he was getting a bit stale, so he skipped the tournament in Washington to spend time with family and recharge the batteries. Since returning to action in Montreal he feels back on the right track.
“I wouldn’t call it burnout but it had become kind of a routine for you,” Shapovalov said. “It becomes your job every week. Every week is the same thing. Somewhere it went from being excited about being on the court in Montreal or the US Open to, ‘OK, I’ve been here before’ and it becomes repetitive. I just started treating it completely different. I’ve always worked hard but I wasn’t so inspired to be out on the court. So when I took that step back, I started to really miss playing and training hard. That’s when I kinda found that spark again.”
Interestingly, Shapovalov is in Winston-Salem this week as a wild card entry because he had taken the week of Washington off. He knew he would need more matches to prepare for the US Open, and Winston-Salem provided that opportunity.
“Obviously pulling out of Washington I wanted to get a couple more matches going to the Open, so I decided it would be perfect to come here and play a couple matches or more,” he said.
Shapovalov was pleased with his performance on Tuesday night. He was dominant in easily winning the first set, and then he prevailed in a wild second set. Shapovalov won the first three games of the second set only to see Sandgren win the next four games. From there, Shapovalov regrouped and won the final three games.
“Definitely a great win for me,” Shapovalov said. “Obviously playing Tennys is tough. I’ve played him a few times, they’ve been good matches. Normally I play well against him and that was the case today. I was aggressive and I think I did a good job when he was coming back in the second set to try and break back and keep going.”
Shapovalov said that Sandgren, who beat Andy Murray in the first round on Monday night, raised his level of play in the second set.
“He picked up his level a lot,” Shapovalov said. “I think he realized that the match was pretty much, not over, but he was in a hole, and he raised his level. It wasn’t anything I was doing wrong. I tried to bounce back when he broke me the second time, and I was able to break him and turn it around really well.”
Shapovalov said he is happy with where his game is right now.
“I think it’s at a good level,” he said. “I think I’ve been playing really well all season. I think it was struggling more mentally, but I’m fresh now and ready for tough situations like the second set today. So I feel pretty confident going to the US Open and playing my next match here.”
Shapovalov will play Miomir Kecmanovic on Wednesday afternoon in the third round.
In other matches on Tuesday night, Andrey Rublev beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-4, 6-2; Lorenzo Sonego beat Damir Dzumhur 6-1, 6-4; and Frances Tiafoe beat Jeremy Chardy 4-2 (ret).