RG says au revoir to Shapo

 - Ian Chadband

Denis Shapovalov was a mix of the brilliant and banal as he lost to Maximilian Marterer in round two.

Denis Shapovalov© Philippe Montigny / FFT

Roland-Garros bade its 2018 farewell to one of the most thrilling talents in tennis on Thursday as Denis Shapovalov bowed out of the tournament in a four-setter against German Maximilian Marterer amid a barrage of blistering winners and bewildering errors.

But the 19-year-old Canadian, who only added to his growing fan club with the adventure and lack of inhibition in his play, promised he would be back to turn his “love-hate” relationship with the clay into love affair.

And ‘Shapo' reckoned he would not compromise his attacking, adventurous style in the future even after his 5-7 7-6(4) 7-5 6-4 defeat by Marterer was decorated with a remarkable 52 searing winners yet pock-marked by an even more unlikely 82 unforced errors on Court 1’s ‘Bull Ring’.

“Obviously I'm disappointed with the loss, but I'm only 19, so not every week is going to be a semi-finals of a big tournament. It's going to be ups and downs, and I just have to keep enjoying it, keep enjoying the journey,” said the teenager in admirably level-headed fashion afterwards.

“I feel like my game does suit this court. And I feel like in the future I could get really good on it. I'm pretty excited to come back next year and play all these clay tournaments again.”

For the moment, though, the No.24 seed conceded that his defeat at the hands of another promising left-hander Marterer, who just seemed more solid and comfortable on the clay, demonstrated just how far he still needed to go to understand all about the vagaries of the surface.

“It's been more about not growing up on the surface, so I didn't really know how to play on it,” he said. “When you're playing all these Europeans, they know exactly what to do on this court.

“Especially at the beginning (of his clay court campaigns), I was kind of getting lost in the rallies. After I kind of figured that out, it's gone a lot easier for me, and it's given me that confidence and inner self-belief that I can play on these courts, and that I can do well.”

Over three hours and 11 minutes of gruelling combat in the sun, the ‘Bull Ring’ spectators got to see exactly why the Canadian has a tortuous relationship with clay as he flitted between the dazzling and the dismal.

Some of his tennis in the opening set was breathtaking, as he leapt into a series of whipped forehand winners that left Marterer scrambling around helplessly.

Yet after winning the opener in 45 minutes, Shapovalov’s inconsistency came alarmingly to the fore as he was guilty of trying to win the point too early and his big-serving opponent proved a model of consistency in comparison, making 30 fewer errors.

The match was definitely on the youngster’s racquet but, as he also noted fairly: “Max played a really good match, coming with big shots when he needed.” Indeed, world No.70 Marterer, a semi-finalist in Munich, looked to have the ammunition to go further when he meets Estonia’s Jurgen Zopp in the third round.

Yet Shapovalov is adamant that his attacking game has a future on the clay. “At the end of the day, I think I have to keep my character on the court, keep my game style, which is being aggressive, dictating, coming to the net a lot.

“Definitely a bit more patience is going to be better for me, just staying with these guys, opening up the court more, stuff like this. And honestly, that's just been something I have always had to do. I have always had that in me to go for the winner. It's always been about how do we work the point so that then you have the shot where you can go for the winner.”

These are puzzles that you fancy this most brilliant of young players will work out quickly enough.