Denis Shapovalov's tournament breakthrough could come in Miami

Denis Shapovalov's tournament breakthrough could come in Miami

The Canadian dropped the opening set to Stefanos Tsitsipas but rallied for a 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) win.

For the better part of two years, Denis Shapovalov has been knocking on the proverbial door. The 19-year-old has as much talent almost anyone he faces, and he's already made his way into the ATP Top 25. But Shapovalov's problem is that he hasn't been able to put it all together over the course of one week.

The Canadian has earned some huge individual victories in his career, notably over Juan Martin del Potro, Rafael Nadal and Marin Cilic. But Shapovalov has yet to reach a tour final, which at this point comes as a surprise. That void on his resume is what made Tuesday night's 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) victory over Greek phenom Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth round of the Miami Open so eye-catching. Is Shapovalov's breakthrough at hand?

I'll answer that question with another: Why not? It was at Indian Wells that Naomi Osaka had her big moment in 2018, and it was in Miami that John Isner—much older than Shapovalov, but seeking a breakthough of his own—won his first Masters title. These March events have been coronations for the established elites, but they've also been opportunities for young talent to announce themselves.

As for his path to the title, Shapovalov certainly has an opportunity in Miami. He has a winnable match against Frances Tiafoe in the quarterfinals, and some of his biggest threats have already been eliminated: Novak Djokovic, Alexander Zverev and Dominic Thiem, to name a few, while Nadal and Del Potro are missing from the field. 

There is a clear path towards Shapovalov making his mark in South Beach. It's just a matter of which version of Shapovalov shows up to the remaining matches. 

Shapovalov has tremendous power for a player his size, and he hits some of the most unique passing shots anyone on tour. He also has he self-belief to go for winners, for better or worse. For with every great Shapovalov performance, there seems to be a lousy one. One that often is full of unforced errors and poorly timed shouting towards his player's box. And that is the Shapovalov that can't afford to show up if he is going to win his first title at the ATP level. 

So far, so good in Miami. But you never know what you're going to get next with Shapovalov. He's three wins away from his first ATP title. If there was ever a time for the Canadian to really buckle down and play some good tennis, it's now.