(Reuters) – Denis Shapovalov lifted the Wimbledon boys’ trophy when Andy Murray reclaimed the men’s crown in 2016 and the Canadian will realise his childhood dream on Friday when he makes his Centre Court debut against the home favourite in the third round.
While grass has always been his favourite surface, Shapovalov has so far struggled to make any lasting impression on turf. His job has also been made difficult by a pesky pollen allergy, which flares up on the lush green courts.
But the 22-year-old showed significant improvement on his run to the semi-finals at Queen’s Club before breaching the second-round barrier for the first time in four appearances at the All England Club.
“Definitely, I think it’s a great moment for me. It’s going to be my first time on Centre Court at Wimbledon, so it’s super exciting for me, my team and my career,” Shapovalov, seeded 10th, told reporters.
“With every year I’ve felt myself get better on this surface, and I do still think there is a lot of room to grow.
“It’s definitely a match I grew up wanting – to play against Andy in the spotlight like this.”
While Shapovalov has been enjoying a two-day rest after receiving a second-round walkover from Pablo Andujar, Murray could use a bit more time to recharge his batteries having spent almost 7-1/2 hours on court during his opening two matches.
Murray was centre stage in another night of drama on Wednesday, roaring back from two sets to one down to beat Oscar Otte and admitted he felt “sharp pain” in his groin, an injury which ruled him out of the claycourt swing.
As much as he was scouting his challenger, Shapovalov could not help but cheer for the 34-year-old, who turned back the clock in front of a raucous home crowd.
“(As) a fan of Andy’s, to see him back and moving so well, especially those last two sets, how he turned it around,” Shapovalov said. “It felt like he was the player that he was a couple of years back. It was really exciting to see.”
In another transatlantic clash on Centre Court, Briton Dan Evans is targeting a place in the second week of the tournament when he takes on American Sebastian Korda.
World number one Novak Djokovic, chasing a sixth Wimbledon title and third in a row, will make a rare appearance on Court One against unseeded American Denis Kudla.
While a mass exodus of top seeds continues in the women’s draw, with six of the top 10 knocked out, second seed Aryna Sabalenka is hoping to avoid an upset against Colombian teenager Maria Camila Osorio Serrano.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru, editing by Pritha Sarkar)