Denis Shapovalov knows good times, his best, according to him, since the tournament in Miami in March. He reached the semifinal at Winston-Salem last week and has been dominant so far in his first two games at the US Open.
This resurgence, after a slacker period, may not be foreign to the arrival of a new coach in his corner: the Russian Mikhail Youzhny.
So far, at least, the new coach Shapovalov seems to have a positive impact on the young prodigy.
Arrived in full confidence in New York after his beautiful performance at Winston-Salem, Shapovalov was ruthless against Felix Auger-Aliassime in the first round, then he won again in three races on Thursday against Henri Laaksonen.
Already, behind the scenes, we say that the "Youzhny effect" is felt. The latter was hired for a trial period before Winston-Salem. He is still not, officially, the coach of Shapo.
And even if it's okay for his protégé, Youzhny refuses to take all the credit.
"I do not think I have had any effect on Denis yet. Good results come back to the player. People like to believe that his results are directly related to my arrival, but it is to him that credit returns. He played some very high level tennis before I came too, "said the 37-year-old retiree in an interview with Le Journal on Thursday night after Shapovalov's victory in three sets against Henri Laaksonen.
Youzhny is the third coach of the 33rd World Racket this season alone. He started the year with Canadian Rob Steckley and it was under his care that Shapo reached the semifinal at the Miami tournament in March. He had, however, turned a few weeks later to Adriano Fuorivia.
At this point, many began to talk about Shapovalov as a difficult young person to lead.
"He has a strong personality, admitted Youzhny. Her mother Tessa helps me a lot by giving me the tools to understand him in the best possible way. It's impossible for me to know someone in two weeks or a month. "
At the start of the US Open, Shapovalov said he was looking for a former player who could really understand what he was going through, which is what Youzhny did well.
"I have my opinion of what he needs to improve and I talk to him a lot. In our discussions, he is often in agreement with me, which is positive because we are moving in the same direction. For me, it's the most important thing. It is necessary that the coach believes in his player, but also that this one believes in his trainer. If you have this chemistry, you can accomplish great things, "said the one who worked for most of his career with the same coach, the Russian Boris Sobkin.
Among the other criteria of Shapovalov, and not without importance: he was looking for a former player who made his backhands to a hand, like him. Another box that could check Youzhny.
But beyond that, the 37-year-old Russian believes he has a significant advantage over several other ATP coaches.
"I can still play! I can practice as a high level player. I think I will still be able to offer high level tennis for three to five years. "
Retired for barely a year, Youzhny also knows the players on the circuit. Another point in his favor. In career, the one who was nicknamed the "Colonel" won three of his four games against Shapovalov's next opponent, Gael Monfils.
"It will be good advice for Denis, recognized Monfils. Against Misha, it was always complicated. However, they are two different players. "