06:34 PM GMT June 25, 2018
Less than a year ago, Borna Coric advanced to the semi-finals of the inaugural Next Gen ATP Finals. And while due to his age, the 21-year-old is no longer considered a #NextGenATP player, the Croatian made waves in the tennis world on Sunday when he defeated nine-time champion Roger Federer to triumph at the Gerry Weber Open.
Another 2017 Milan qualifier, #NextGenATP Canadian Denis Shapovalov, was not surprised.
“They are all human. They have all been beaten before. Obviously they are legends at this game, at this sport, to be where they are at at their age,” Shapovalov said. “But at the end of the day, it's a sport and they can lose, anyone can lose on a given day. Borna's had a really good year, has played some unbelievable tennis.
“It wasn't that big of a shocker to me that he beat Roger. Obviously it's always tough to beat a guy at that level, but like I said, Borna has been playing unbelievable tennis this year, so I'm happy for him.”
If anything, Coric’s win motivates Shapovalov, as does all of the success current #NextGenATP players have. #NextGenATP Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas, for example, has beaten five players inside the Top 20 of the ATP Rankings in 2018, helping him climb nearly 60 spots since the beginning of the year to a career-best No. 35.
“It motivates the rest of us to keep working harder, try to do what Borna did last week, try to improve, try to get good results,” said Shapovalov, who is the No. 3 seed at the Nature Valley International. “I feel like that's kind of been the trend nowadays. One guy has some success and then you see another guy coming up and it's just kind of motivating each other to do better, and I feel like it's going to keep going like this.”
In a way, it’s a glimpse into the future for the #NextGenATP stars. Four #NextGenATP players are currently inside the Top 35 of the ATP Rankings.
“Even though they are so dominant at the sport, it's something that we have the potential to do,” Shapovalov said. “It's honestly pretty cool to have a group of young guys like this with such talent and such a high level coming up together.”
Shapovalov, the 2016 Wimbledon Boys’ Singles champion, will now look to make his own mark on the grass in Eastbourne. After reaching the semi-finals in Madrid and Delray Beach, the World No. 26 seeks his first ATP World Tour title. And while he holds just a 1-4 tour-level record on the surface, he feels it suits his game well.
“I feel like I have a pretty aggressive game style, big-serving. I like to come to the net, so that kind of suits the grass,” Shapovalov said. “I feel like potentially in a couple of years it's going to be a really good surface for me.”
The 19-year-old left-hander will begin his campaign against another 2017 Next Gen ATP Finals qualifier, Jared Donaldson. And while it was Coric who shone brightly last week, he hopes that now, it is his turn.
“I feel like my game is really coming along,” Shapovalov said. “I feel pretty ready for this week. Hopefully I can do some damage at this tournament. That would be great.”