Canada's Shapovalov feeling motivated after strong finish to 2022 season

Ending last season on a high has given Canada's Denis Shapovalov a little extra motivation as he looks ahead to the 2023 campaign.

Shapovalov overcame a summer slump by reaching two ATP Tour event finals last fall and he capped the season by helping Canada win the Davis Cup for the first time.

The results have left him feeling confident and determined entering the upcoming Australian Open.

"There's still a lot of things to try to realize and put together and I'm still working in that direction," Shapovalov said. "But I definitely feel like I'm more of a complete player than I did last year or in the years before.

"So it definitely is coming together."

The 23-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont., cracked the top 10 in 2020, but his ranking has mostly hovered in the teens since.

He slipped a little lower down the list last year after a rough spell of nine losses in 10 matches. A late-season rebound lifted him to a year-end No. 18.

Shapovalov, at No. 20, and Felix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal, at No. 6, are the only seeded Canadian singles players at the first Grand Slam of the year. Main draw play begins Monday (Sunday night ET).

Shapovalov is scheduled to open against Dusan Lajovic of Serbia while Auger-Aliassime was set to meet Davis Cup teammate and Vernon, B.C., native Vasek Pospisil.

Four Canadians are entered in the women's singles draw. Vancouver's Rebecca Marino, Bianca Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., and Leylah Fernandez of Laval, Que., are joined by Toronto qualifier Katherine Sebov.

Ottawa's Gabriela Dabrowski, the world No. 7 in women's doubles, is the Canadian headliner in the four-player game. Doubles draws have yet to be released.

Shapovalov won his lone ATP Tour event in Stockholm in 2019 and reached the final of the Paris Masters later that season.

He was a finalist on two occasions in 2021 and made two more finals last October, falling to Japan's Yoshihito Nishioka (then ranked 56th) in Seoul and Russia's Daniil Medvedev (then ranked fourth) in Vienna.

Shapovalov's aggressive groundstroke game can force opponents to play a more defensive style. The challenge for the left-hander can be finding a balance between going for higher-risk shots and playing with consistency.

"I want to always go for it and play big, but that's probably not necessary against every player," Shapovalov told The Canadian Press from Australia. "Against the big guys that's when I'll probably need to use it a bit more.

"But against lower-ranked guys, it's about implementing a solid game where I can win 90 or 95 per cent of the time. I think that's something that I've been able to do much better."

Shapovalov reached the quarterfinals Down Under last season, his best showing at a Grand Slam since a semifinal appearance at Wimbledon in 2021.

He feels quite comfortable on the Melbourne Park hardcourts.

"It definitely does suit my game," he said. "I've always felt like I've played well in Australia, whether it was leading up to the Slam or in the Slam. So I definitely feel like my chances are good here."

Fernandez is the highest-ranked Canadian in women's singles at No. 39. She was scheduled to open against Alize Cornet of France.

The 42nd-ranked Andreescu was to meet Marie Bouzkova of Czechia while the 66th-ranked Marino was to face China's Lin Zhu.

Sebov, the world No. 191, won three qualifying matches to reach the main draw. She was scheduled to play fourth-seeded Caroline Garcia of France in the first round.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 12, 2023.

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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press