The young and profoundly skilled Denis achieved a career-high ranking this year despite a midseason slump that included five straight losses. Shapo got his first tournament victory at Stockholm and made semis at Miami Masters 1000 and the final of the Paris Masters 1000.
Denis possesses a well-rounded game, and a change of coach mid-year to Youzhny saw him become more composed and dependable. Denis had a wretched middle stretch in the season but managed to finish in position 15; therefore, I am confident in him placing in the top 15 once more in 2020. I observed him live at AO 2018 comfortably beat Tsitsipas and despite the fact, Tsitsipas leapfrogged him this year, I still expect Shapo to be the better player in time.
Words for my take on him are power, energy, air-time and X factor.
Power: Shapo produces natural power on both sides, and his backhand variations are exquisite. Likely to challenge Wawrinka for the most fearsome backhand in the game soon.
Energy: Denis radiates energy on and off the court. Much like Tsitsipas, he has a spring in his step and seems to enjoy life.
Air-time: Bounces around the baseline, often getting off the ground to hit groundstrokes and likes to dance up and down before serving. His backhand jump shot is exceptional, frequently resulting in a blistering winner.
X factor: Can do things you can’t teach. Improvising under pressure or getting out of the ostensibly impossible situation.
Likes: Shapo owns an attacking all-court game. Grew up idolizing Federer and you can see it in his play. Of the young players has the style that most closely resembles Federers. I like that he is a lefty. Seems to be a very humble, respectful and caring person.
Dislikes: Denis has struggled for consistency, but this is only a minor peeve for me. Patience with him will be worth the wait. A particular other talented youngster took a little longer than expected before achieving peRFection.
Areas for improvement: Return of serve needs work. Denis doesn’t make enough quality returns. The backhand can leak too many unforced errors, and better shot selection on this side would help. The backhand and forehand are multi-faceted, but his rally balls require further tightening up. Denis has a potent serve but needs to get his first serve percentage higher. Homework is to watch Federer serves & volleys even though his volley abilities are above average; they will become ever more essential to support his game style in the years ahead.