'Huge, huge fan' Shapovalov prepares for Alcaraz

The former world No.10 is thrilled to have landed a third-round battle with the top seed.

Denis Shapovalov, Roland-Garros 2023, first round © Julien Crosnier/FFT
 - Alex Sharp

It's a mission only Jannik Sinner, Cameron Norrie and Fabian Marozsan have accomplished in 2023. That is: to defeat world No.1 Carlos Alcaraz.

The 20-year-old Spanish sensation has a pretty spectacular 32-3 record this season, including his first two matches at Roland-Garros. Step forward Denis Shapovalov, the Canadian world No.32 who faces the Spaniard in the third round.

Speaking to the media following his second-round victory over Italy's Matteo Arnaldi, Shapovalov had some high praise for his next opponent.

"First of all, I'm a huge, huge fan of his... I think he's a great guy. He's super humble for achieving what he has at such a young age," he said.


"You can see how much he enjoys being on the court and the situations that are coming forward to him. He's not in an easy spot being No.1 and so young and so much noise around him.

 "I really look up to him. I think he is also just a nice guy. In the locker rooms he's always saying hi. He's always been polite since he came onto the scene. I think he has a great team around him."

Mutual respect

That is some pretty high praise, which Alcaraz returned in kind.

"I have never played against him. But I practised in Barcelona with him. But everybody knows his level," said the top seed. "He's a really dangerous player. He has great shots.

"It's going to be really difficult, really difficult match."

Shapovalov showed that danger in a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 dismissal of Arnaldi, a step in the right direction after a clay season disrupted by a left knee issue.

Uncharted territory

The 24-year-old could only compete in Barcelona and Madrid on the road to Roland-Garros, posting a 1-2 match record. He might be underprepared, but the Canadian is relishing the chance to show what he can do when up against the best.

"It's going to be a challenge. It's going to be a tough battle. He's a great player, obviously everywhere, but especially on clay courts. Three out of five is not going to be easy against him, but I'm looking forward to it," he said, looking ahead to a first third-round appearance here in Paris.

"Honestly, going into this tournament I didn't really know what to expect. I was barely playing any tennis, just trying to see how the knee is this week and try to play as much as possible."

Denis Shapovalov, first round, Roland-Garros 2023© Julien Crosnier/FFT

"Here I am making my best result at the French, so maybe I should practise less. But, I'll give it my all. I'll see how it is. Hopefully the knee is good for the match," he added.

"It's nice to put yourself in these situations."

It's at the other three majors where the Canadian has already showed his potential.

He made the quarter-finals at the 2020 US Open and 2022 Australian Open, book-ending a semi-final showing at Wimbledon in 2021.

Denis Shapovalov, 1er tour, Roland-Garros 2023©Julien Crosnier / FFT

'Zero expectations'

Shapovalov is discovering advantages to his time away from the court.

"In general, whenever you have results, then you get expectations and then there's a lot of pressure behind it. That's why I said I respect Alcaraz a lot because he's been able to deal with the noise very well thus far," Shapovalov said.

"It's just something I'm learning still, not to focus too much on the results. For better or for worse, having an injury, it's obviously not great. But having a week like this week where there's zero expectations because I'm just coming to see how I am physically, that's almost when you produce your best tennis.

"That's kind of a lesson to myself and how I have to keep going. I just need to focus on myself and try to do the best. I think the results come on their own."