October 21, 2019 / 7:37 PM / 23 days ago

Tennis: Canada's Shapovalov says maiden triumph 'weight off the shoulders'

(Reuters) - Denis Shapovalov may have had to wait longer than he would have liked before winning his first ATP title at the Stockholm Open but the young Canadian said on Monday he always knew his day would come.

FILE PHOTO: Tennis - Stockholm Open 2019 - Day 7 - Men's Single Semi Final - Royal Tennis Hall in Stockholm, Sweden - October 19, 2019 - Canada's Denis Shapovalov in action. TT News Agency/Claudio Bresciani via REUTERS

Shapovalov was 0-for-7 in ATP semi-finals before Saturday’s win over Japan’s Yuichi Sugita, which he followed with a victory over Serbian Filip Krajinovic to become the first Canadian to win a men’s title since Milos Raonic in 2016.

“I knew eventually it was going to come sooner or later,” Shapovalov told a conference call on Monday. “I knew I struggled a couple times in the semi-finals, I had some tough draws and tough matches but stayed pretty patient.”

That patience and self-belief could go a long way in helping the 20-year-old Shapovalov, who for years has been considered a rising talent in Canadian tennis, unlock what some experts feel is an unlimited source of potential.

Even Shapovalov, who first announced his arrival in 2017 with impressive wins over Juan Martin del Potro and Rafael Nadal en route to the Montreal semis, admits the years-long chase for a maiden title was taking a toll.

“It’s a big kind of weight off the shoulders,” Shapovalov said. “It also a really big step forward.”

Shapovalov, who is ranked 27th, said he never became discouraged despite falling short in seven previous semi-finals, a stage of a tournament he considers a high accomplishment.

After finally earning his first shot to play for a title, Shapovalov said he was not sure how he would feel on the court but was never overwhelmed by the stakes.

“I approached it in a really excited way, you know not nervous at all to be honest,” said Shapovalov, who on Monday was named to the Canadian team for the Nov. 18-24 Davis Cup Finals in Madrid.

“It’s a really big confidence booster for me for the future in knowing that I have already a title under my belt and I can play more relaxed, but also that I really get up for these matches and get really excited.”

Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Pritha Sarkar

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