As she coached him in Toronto as a toddler, Tessa Shapovalova instructed her younger son to not thoughts the balls arcing over his head when he went to the web. Someday, she mentioned, he could be tall sufficient to succeed in them.

“From a young age, I never was a player that would sit back and wait for my opponent’s mistakes,” Denis Shapovalov mentioned Wednesday. “I all the time needed to be the one dictating. I used to be all the time coming to the web from 10, 12 years previous, getting lobbed again there, dropping factors.

“My mom always told me: ‘Later on, you’re going to grow, and this is going to be an advantage to you. It’s something that is yours. You have to keep and maintain it for the future.’”

Shapovalov, 22, has reached his first semifinal in a Grand Slam event at Wimbledon, the place he’ll face Novak Djokovic on Friday with the hopes of changing into the primary Canadian man to succeed in the ultimate right here since 2016.

“It was great that she had that vision for my game years ahead,” mentioned Shapovalov, who remains to be coached by his mom. “It’s something that, like I said, I’ve always had.”

On grass courts, which reward assertive play greater than every other floor, Shapovalov has been profitable the races in rally after rally, spherical after spherical.

Denis Shapovalov celebrates profitable his quarter remaining match towards Russia’s Karen Khachanov. (REUTERS/Peter Nicholls)

He has hit 214 winners, the many of the 4 semifinalists, regardless of having performed one fewer match than the opposite three.

In his first-round win, he hit 58 winners to Philipp Kohlschreiber’s 30. After receiving a second-round walkover from Pablo Andújar, he blasted a two-time Wimbledon champion, Andy Murray, off the court docket within the third spherical, ripping 45 winners to Murray’s 16. In his fourth-round win, Shapovalov hit 52 winners to Roberto Bautista Agut’s 14.

“I played against a very good version of Denis,” eighth-seeded Bautista Agut mentioned. “I think he played great. He was hitting so hard. He was serving well.”

There have been, as Bautista Agut hinted, lesser variations of Shapovalov in previous years; Shapovalov has additionally hit probably the most unforced errors of the remaining males at Wimbledon, with 170.

When he was 18, Shapovalov made a shocking arrival to the tour by beating top-seeded Rafael Nadal on the 2017 Montreal Masters, electrifying a night-session crowd that included NHL legend Wayne Gretzky within the entrance row. But within the intervening years, the outcomes haven’t all the time materialized for Shapovalov and his free-swinging arm, and he has been pressured to work on reining in his energy.

“Maybe sometimes I’m a little bit too wild, and I don’t make the opponents earn it on the big points,” Shapovalov mentioned. “I’ve been a little bit more conservative, actually, this tournament.”

Shapovalov’s extra cautious play didn’t serve him properly within the quarterfinals Wednesday towards Karen Khachanov: He misplaced the second and third units.

“I knew in the fourth and fifth, I have to dictate myself and be aggressive,” Shapovalov mentioned. “Otherwise, he was going to win the match. It comes pretty naturally to me. I’ve always been an aggressive player. I’ve always wanted to go for shots. It’s actually the other way around that I’ve had to learn to take a step back and put more pressure on the opponents, make them earn the points.”

He added: “Sometimes it does help having that naturally come to me, especially in a match like today when the opponent is playing so well and he’s not giving anything to you. You kind of have to go and take it yourself.”

Shapovalov took it for himself ultimately, prevailing, 6-4, 3-6, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4, hitting 59 winners to Khachanov’s 31.

“I think my game just elevated,” Shapovalov mentioned. “It’s something to be super, super proud of myself for.”

Khachanov, in defeat, conceded that Shapovalov “went for it more” in essential moments.

“It’s his type of game — he’s like this,” Khachanov mentioned. “He also makes a lot of unforced errors, but that’s why I think he’s a tough player to play with because, especially on grass, when he pulls the trigger, he can make it. Sometimes you don’t expect where to run.”

To advance one spherical additional, Shapovalov might want to penetrate the strong defenses of Djokovic. Shapovalov is 0-6 towards him, however the two have by no means performed on grass.

“You don’t get too many opportunities on his service game, especially here on grass,” Djokovic mentioned.

“I’m sure that that’s going to be the biggest test I will have so far in the tournament, which is also expected — it’s semifinals,” Djokovic added. “I’m looking forward to it. It’s going to be a battle, and I need to be at my best.”

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