Shapovalov unfazed by Centre Court pressure ahead of Murray clash


ll the sensibilities would suggest that Denis Shapovalov should make his way into the fourth round of Wimbledon on Centre Court later on Friday.

The 22-year-old Canadian is the No10 seed and has spent the past few days with his feet up, thanks to a walkover over an injured Pablo Andujar.

In contrast, one suspects Andy Murray has been nursing a stiff body since stepping off Centre Court late on Wednesday night after a five-set epic against Oscar Otte.

And yet for the metal hip and the agonising four years of very little playing time, there is still an expectation that Murray, even as the world No118, can conjure up another dose of magic. It is that which still makes him such a big draw come his anticipated teatime arrival on court.

In his favour are the crowd, his years of experience and the fact that grass, for him, is a wholly natural surface. Plus, he already has a few hours under his belt on the slip-slide nature of this year’s Centre Court.

Shapovalov is all too aware of the aspects leaning in his opponent’s favour. “Andy has played a couple of matches on Centre Court and he’s…obviously comfortable on there. It’s going to be my first match so it’s going to be a little bit tricky to adjust,” he said.

Then comes the matter of the crowd. Murray’s previous opponent used the cacophony of noise to his advantage and a swashbuckling Shapovalov, known for his big shots, is unlikely to be daunted by the raucous reception even if few in the stands will be cheering him on.

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Of the partisan crowd, he said: “It’s normal. He’s playing at home and a two-time champion here so, for sure, it’s expected. It’s a great moment for me. It’s going to be my first time on Centre Court at Wimbledon so it’s definitely super exciting.

“It’s definitely a match I grew up wanting to play against Andy in the spotlight like this. So, it’s a match I’m looking forward to. It’s going to be a lot of fun out there.”

Judging by the nervous glances and twitching in their seats, fun was probably not the first word used to describe sitting through Murray’s first two matches by wife Kim, mum Judy, coach Jamie Delgado and the rest of the team.

Shapovalov, with no tennis of his own to play, was among those glued to the television lapping up the late-night drama.

“Honestly, just as a tennis fan it was fun to watch,” he said. “[I’m] a fan of Andy’s so to see him back and moving so well, especially those last two sets, how he turned it around. It felt like he was the player that he was a couple of years back. It was really exciting to see.”

A student of the game, the Canadian remembers vividly Murray’s second Wimbledon title in 2016 – at the time he was playing in the junior tournament – although memories of the previous win when he was just 14 years old are less vivid.

In the build-up to the match, he said he had both appreciation and respect for what Murray had achieved in the game but also his long road back to fitness.

One suspects he will be less generous come Centre Court and ominously he suggested the match could be a turning point, a chance to finally show the effectiveness of his game on grass.

And as for taking Murray late into the night once more, he is more than happy to oblige. As he put it: “I’m hoping to have a long match and a long battle.”

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