Denis Shapovalov is one of the most dynamic, energetic young players on the ATP Tour. The 22-year-old has made plenty of noise on the court, reaching a career-high World No. 10 in 2020. The Canadian has also earned fans with his rap music, too.
Before beginning his run at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia, ATPTour.com caught up with Shapovalov to learn about his life on the ATP Tour, from the key items he travels with to a memorable travel story.
What are two essential non-tennis items you always pack for trips?
Definitely my headphones, just to listen to music all the time. Every plane ride I’ve got the headphones in, just killing time listening to different music. I’ve been listening to a lot of hip-hop stuff, actually. I like G-Eazy, I’m a big fan of his. I listen to his music a lot. But recently, I’ve been getting into a lot of Russian music… these guys are also hip-hop artists. In Russian it’s a cool change, so I’ve been listening to that.
The other [thing I need] has got to be my phone, just to connect with people, connect with everyone and find ways to communicate with everyone all over the world.
What item did you forget to bring one time that caused you distress?
I don’t think I’ve actually ever forgotten anything that bad. There was one trip where I forgot underwear, so I guess that’s pretty bad. But I just bought some, so it’s fine. It worked out fine! I’m pretty good with that stuff. I’ll quadruple check that I have the important things.
Do you enjoy travelling the world or consider it just something that needs to be done to be a pro tennis player? If you do enjoy it, what do you enjoy about travelling?
I do enjoy travelling, but not to the extent that we have to because of tennis. For me, I do enjoy staying in one place as well and settling down and having my own space, my own time and sleeping in my own bed.
Travel was quite a change for me and it wasn’t really easy when I first came on Tour, because it was a pretty big change. I was struggling with that a little bit, but through the years I’ve just gained experience, gotten used to it and kind of gotten comfortable with it. Now I really do enjoy travelling and seeing all these different places. It’s always fun seeing different things, different tournaments and knowing the tournaments now, you know what spots you like and what cities you enjoy, so you look forward to it every year.
Can you talk about a time you decided to play a specific tournament in part because you wanted to travel to that city?
Especially this year, I’ve been trying to play a lot of new tournaments to get a feel for places. Because we’ve been in a bubble — we haven’t been able to leave — I’ve tried to find excitement somewhere else by just playing new events. I played Doha and Dubai for the first time.
It’s a different kind of feeling, kind of fun going to a new tournament compared to somewhere you’ve been. For me, I’ve been trying to do that this year. In general, you do try to pick the spots you like the most, the places you feel more comfortable with, the surfaces. For me, I specifically like the American culture and vibes, big cities, so I do enjoy playing in North America or in Australia. I’ve had my best results there so I try to play there as much as possible.
What is your favourite tournament city to visit and why?
I love Australia a lot. It reminds me a lot of Canada, the people and the atmosphere, so I enjoy that a lot. There are so many great places. Paris of course, London, all these great events. I met my girlfriend in Barcelona, so great memories at that tournament. I feel like every spot you go, there’s a specific thing you remember or you like about it and that just gets you excited to go back there.
Where is your favourite vacation destination?
I’ve never been there, but I’ve always wanted to go to the Maldives. I do live in the Bahamas, so it’s not too shabby for vacation. It’s amazing there and a great spot to get away and just relax.
What is your craziest travel story?
I had one recently that sucked. I was in Bradenton and was heading down to Miami for my flight to Barcelona. Everything was fine, we got there and we were just about to board and then right before we were about to board, they cancelled the flight. There was this whole struggle of having to do the PCR test again, because ours would expire. We had to rush out of the airport and get one done as soon as possible to get the results the next morning and we didn’t know if the results would come or not. Luckily, they did.
Then you have the flight the next day. It’s super tough to travel with the situation right now, but for sure those experiences are pretty cool looking back at it. When you do enter those tough travel situations, you just have to stay calm and I think I do a pretty good job. I just accept it. It is what it is, let’s see what we can do and move past it. I’m pretty happy that everything worked out.
As a tennis player, maintaining your body is of the utmost importance, so how do you take care of it during long trips?
During the trip, it’s tough. Basically I just try to sleep as much as possible. I try to let the time go by as quickly as possible, so that’s what I do. But of course, right off the flight, you try to get a flush, get the lactic acid out of your body. You get worked on by your physio, a nice massage, and try to even move or go for a run just to get used to the ground and everything again. Pretty much just feel your body the first couple days.
Of course, it’s tough to expect much from your tennis, especially when you go overseas and [you have to deal with] the time change and everything the first couple days. It’s really just feeling out the body and making sure everything is in place.
Are there any routines or activities you do to create a sense of ‘home on the road’ to feel more comfortable?
I make a huge mess! It makes me feel right at home. The weird thing is I’m actually way cleaner at home than I am at hotel rooms. I just go into tank mode in my hotel room. At home I want to keep it tidy in case people come over. It’s my space, so I try to clean after myself. Really making that mess or just putting my stuff in certain places, it does kind of make you feel at home. I don’t think I ever fully feel like I’m at home, I always have that feeling that I’m at a hotel. But maybe making a mess subconsciously somewhat makes me feel comfortable.
I like coffee a lot, so I also try to find some nice coffee places. Some cafes, just places to settle down and get away from the tennis a little bit.
Are you someone who gets to the airport with lots of time to spare or do you cut it fine?
I get there really early usually. I’d rather be early. I just walk through the shops and just kill time. I don’t mind being there. Grabbing a bite before the flight is good, because I don’t like the plane food too much. I get there early, I have some time to sit down, have some food and get ready for the flight.