FEDERER VS. SHAPOVALOV PREVIEW: A TEENAGER TAKES ON HIS IDOL
By Tucker Verdi
Miami Gardens, FL — At 19, a rising player from Switzerland by the name of Roger Federer took to the biggest stage in tennis — Centre Court at Wimbledon — and pull the world on notice by defeating the man he had idolized, Pete Sampras, in 2001.
That match was a prelude to a career that has eclipsed record after record, rewriting the history books of the sport. After 20 major titles, 310 weeks at World No. 1, and a record haul of prize money as the first to cross the $100,000,000 mark, Federer unimaginable success had to start somewhere. Many mention that match against Sampras as his revelation to the sport he has indelibly changed forever.
On a slightly smaller stage — by stature, that is, as Stadium Court at the Miami Open presented by Itaú is massive in size — another 19-year-old, this time from Canada, will take on his idol.
This time, Federer finds himself the idolized, looked to with awe by his semifinal opponent, Denis Shapovalov. The young Canadian has crafted his game after Federer, most noticeably — that lethal one-handed backhand that can unleash hellish power when called upon.
“I practiced with Denis way back when,” Federer recalled about first meeting Shapovalov back in 2016. “I think he warmed me up for a match in Toronto, I believe, and he came out. He might have been 16, 17, and… he was just hitting big. I was, like, ‘Wow, it’s unbelievable. How old is he? How good is he gonna get?’”
Big hitting will be key for both players as youth and vigor go up against experience and resolve. In what will be the first matchup between the two, a glimpse will be provided into how much Federer has shaped the game in his years on tour. Another player who modeled himself after the maestro, Stefanos Tsitsipas, memorably got the better of Federer in their first meeting in Melbourne earlier this year. Federer, however, avenged that loss in the final in Dubai, showing he knows how to make the adjustments to beat his own game.
Shapovalov has been looking forward to this meeting his entire life, and having realized his dream of becoming a professional tennis player, savors the opportunity to play across from his hero.
“It’s going to be a dream come true,” Shapovalov said, “to play him in such a big event over here, and the stakes are so high, semifinal match of a Masters 1000 against your idol. It’s just a dream come true.”
While inspired by Federer and hoping to find as much success as him, Shapovalov is not Roger Federer. For now, at least, there is only one Roger Federer, and he takes to Stadium Court tonight as the favorite to make his fifth Miami Open final.
But then again, one has to ask — wasn’t Pete the favorite in 2001?
It was after that match that the 19-year-old kid from Switzerland became Roger Federer. Maybe tonight, a 19-year-old kid from Canada becomes Denis Shapovalov.