Canadian tennis star Denis Shapovalov has a simple rule for dealing with the hype — just ignore it.

It's been a gradual, but important lesson, as the ASB Classic second seed has been one of the most talked about players on the circuit over the last few years, ever since his crazy breakthrough in Montreal in 2017, when, as a wildcard ranked No 143, he beat Juan Martin Del Porto and Rafa Nadal as he stormed to the final.

Then 18, he looked like he had just stepped off his skateboard, with his long hair and cap on backwards, and brought a gun-slinging style to the court.

He was the next big thing, but then it didn't quite happen.


Shapovalov's results were still impressive, but without the explosion that many had forecast.

That's normal, especially in men's tennis, but wasn't universally accepted by some critics.

"I don't really pay attention to it," said Shapovalov. "I know the hype comes and it goes, it's something that I learned from the last couple of years beating Rafa and there is a lot of noise around me."

"And then once you start losing there is a lot of negative noise around you. Honestly, I just kind of zone it out, try to go about my own business and just listen to the people around me and focus on myself."

That insane week at the 2017 Rogers Cup was a blessing and a curse.

It catapulted him into the top-70 and gave him immeasurable confidence and belief, but also set expectations that have been hard to live up to.

But the signs are good now.

Shapovalov had a brilliant end to 2019, winning his first title in Stockholm before a great run at the Paris Masters, advancing past four top-15 players, including Fabio Fognini and Gael Monfils, before falling to Novak Djokovic in the final.


He was then part of Canada's historic performance at the Davis Cup, as they beat Italy, Russia, Australia and the United States to make the final for the first time.

"My game is evolving and I am becoming more of a complete player," said the World No 13. "Back then I beat Rafa but it takes time for everyone to grow as a player, as a person, get older and gain experience.

:I feel like my game has improved a lot since that match [and] it's important to keep working. The results are coming now but it doesn't mean they are going to be constantly like this. I need to keep working, fight for every match."

Shapovalov, who is now coached by former world No 8 Mikhail Youzhny, enjoys returning to Auckland.

"It's really relaxed, really chilled," said Shapovalov.
"I love the fans here and I think they love me back. It's a nice little city, a nice week to get away from the hectic-ness of the major the week after."

However his stays here have been frustrating brief, with only one win from three matches.

He''ll face compatriot Vasik Pospisil or Portuguese Joao Sousa in Wednesday's second round (the top four seeds receive a first round bye) and hopes for a decent run here.

"Obviously I am in a better position, playing some really good tennis," said Shapovalov. "But there are a lot of good players in the draw and it is going to be tough to get through. It would mean a lot to lift the title here, but it's a long road."

Top seed Fabio Fognini, world No 16 Karen Khachanov (Russia) and popular American John Isner are among the other big names on court on Wednesday.