The match had started thirty-one minutes before Denis Shapovalov raised his arms, half-smiling, half-resigned, calling on the public of the Philippe-Chatrier court, who came to celebrate the start of the weekend at the Central de Roland-Garros, Friday evening June 2. The Canadian had just saved two set points against Carlos Alcaraz and scored his first game of the match, thwarting the plan of his opponent, who would have gladly given him a 6-0.
The image alone sums up the “effect” that the Spaniard produces on anyone who faces him for the first time, like the 32e world, beaten in the third round (6-1, 6-4, 6-2). Power that moves, explosiveness on the forehand and a willingness to chase every ball as if each were a match point. “I had fun watching videos of him when he was 8-9 years old, then 12-13 years old when he played the Little As [le championnat du monde officieux des moins de 14 ans, à Tarbes], his technique is almost similar to that of today, which means that already, as a child, he had extremely high, even very rare muscular and natural qualities of coordination.attests Marion Bartoli, consultant for Prime Video during the Paris fortnight.
At the age of 20 (he celebrated them on May 5), the prodigy from El Palmar (Murcia) is playing his first Grand Slam in the shoes of the world No. 1 – the youngest since the creation of the ATP ranking in 1973 – and with the label of favorite according to his rank. If the 2023 edition of Roland-Garros promises to be more open than in previous years in the absence of the master of the place, Rafael Nadal, the name of his compatriot comes out on top tied with that of Novak Djokovic.
“It’s obviously a little crazy to see my name as world No. 1 on a Grand Slam, said the winner of the US Open 2022 on May 26, three days before entering the competition. But I don’t feel any more pressure before playing this tournament under this status. I’m not saying I’m the No. 1 favourite, I’m just putting myself on the list of those who can win Roland-Garros, like many others. »
“Mentally, I am stronger”
And the absence of his glorious Majorcan elder does not change his ambitions in the tournament. “Even if Rafael Nadal had been there, I wouldn’t have given myself less of a chance to win”says the one who had been stopped in the quarter-finals by the German Alexander Zverev in 2022. There should be no impudence in the youngest, simply an appetite for competition that has been simmering in him since the cradle, or almost.
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