Denis Shapovalov: Eminem gets me pumped up before big matches

Denis Shapovalov serves during the first round match against Gilles Muller at the Fever-Tree Championships at Queens Club in 2018
Order on the court: Denis Shapovalov serving at The Queens Club in 2018 Credit: Getty

One of the most exciting youngsters in the men’s game chooses some of the best moments from his career ahead of the 2019 Fever-Tree Championships

Who is the best player you have ever faced?

Roger Federer. When I played him, he had an answer for every shot I hit, and if I played a good one, he would hit an even better one back. He’s the best that’s ever played the game.

What was the best match you have ever played in?

Against Rafael Nadal in the Montreal final in 2017, with all the hype. The crowd was sold out and winning that one was incredible.

Winning feeling: Rafael Nadal congratulates Shapovalov for his victory in Montreal Credit: Getty

And what is the best you have ever played?

Against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga at the US Open, also in 2017. We’ve had some great matches but I won that one in straight sets. I played so clean, unbelievable, the best quality I’ve ever produced. Even our five-setter in Melbourne last year was sick. We just seem to bring the best out of each other.

What is the best city you have visited on tour?

Toronto is unbelievable but that’s the city I grew up in so I feel biased. I love Rome, St Petersburg, London, Melbourne. There are so many nice places on tour. I’ll go for Melbourne because it’s very similar to Toronto – both right beside the water – and the people are so nice. OK, so everything is twice the price but the vibe is great and the coffee is incredible.

Unbelievable views: Shapovalov grew up in the city of Toronto Credit: Getty

And the best place you have ever played tennis?

My mum’s tennis club back home in Canada. You can’t tell what it is from the outside. It’s just an industrial building. But when you walk inside, it has two courts, concrete walls. I feel like I’ve always played well there. I love to go back there and hit all the time.

What is your best pre-match tune to listen to?

A lot of Eminem, just because he gets me pumped up. There are so many great songs: Lose Yourself or Till I Collapse or Phenomenal. G-Eazy I like too, he’s got this chilled, raspy style. And Logic.

What is your best pre-match meal?

I get pasta with a tiny bit of tomato sauce. No protein before the match.

Carb loading: pasta with tomato sauce is the perfect pre-match meal for Shapovalov Credit: Getty

What is the best way to celebrate a victory?

Depends if you’re talking about winning a match or a tournament. The dinner following a good win is the best because you get to walk through that match again with the team, and talk about, “Oh yeah, that point was awesome.” Whereas if you win a tournament you want to go out, have a couple of drinks. The Davis Cup was so much fun, when we beat Slovakia in February, and I went out with Felix [Auger-Aliassime] and the whole Tennis Canada staff.

Who has been the best sportsperson in the world?

Wayne Gretzky. The guy destroyed the sport of ice hockey. Michael Jordan’s at No 2.

Ice cool: Wayne Gretzky dominated the sport of ice hockey for many years Credit: Getty

What is the best thing about being a professional sportsman?

The fans. The love you get when you visit cities, or when you’re on the court training and people are chanting your name. Or after matches. It’s this feeling that I am still not used to and every time people cheer me I think, “This is amazing.”

What is the best thing about tennis?

You’re out there on your own. In other sports you have a coach and a team to back you up. You can talk to your box but at the end of the day it’s up to you. It’s an interesting feeling because it’s so different to other sports, and that’s what makes tennis so prestigious and so great.

Who in the world would be the best person share a drink with?

Eminem. He tells you what he’s been through in his songs but to see how he came out of trailer homes and always constantly moving. And how he found it within himself to get his life together and produce something that everybody loves. My second choice would be Wayne Gretzky, to see the struggles he went through mentally and physically.

Lose yourself: Eminem is the person Shapovalov would most like to share a drink with Credit: Getty

What has been the best moment in your life?

After winning Junior Wimbledon in 2016, having dinner with my family and my team: everybody important to me, just sitting down and reflecting on the whole thing. The best moments are always with your friends or family.