Photo : Jonathan Moore/BNP Paribas Open
It wasn’t their first outing.
It wasn’t their most important or their most memorable.
But on March 9, there was a lot of all-Canadian hype when our country’s top ATP delegates teamed up in the men’s doubles event of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells.
We all thought Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov would be inseparable after their brilliant junior careers, but sustaining things became a bit more complicated as they moved up in the rankings, competed in different tournaments and set their sights on their own goals.
Shapovalov has had a lot of success with veteran Rohan Bopanna, while Félix managed to seize his first joint title with Hubert Hurkacz at the 2020 Paris Masters despite playing far less doubles.
What’s not to love about the two Canadians who’ve been friends since childhood and reached such heights?
In 2015, the kids won the Junior Davis Cup and US Open boys’ doubles title.
Three years later, they teamed up at the NBO in Shapo’s hometown of Toronto. Their opening match drew a huge crowd but ended in elimination at the hands of Novak Djokovic and Kevin Anderson.
Barely two years after that, they took their doubles to the next level to secure the ATP Cup in Brisbane, Australia.
Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime grew up together and broke through together. When they competed together to clinch the 2022 Davis Cup, they made Canada one of the world’s elite tennis nations.
While they didn’t pair up at the century-old competition, their excellence in singles and doubles provided our country with enviable depth.
On the evening of Thursday, March 9, on a secondary court in Indian Wells, the duo locked in an easy two-set win over Holger Rune of Denmark and Ben Shelton of the US (6-1, 6-3) in just 56 minutes.
In the following round, a walkover provided by Cam Norrie (and Lucas Miedler of Austria) meant they’d punched their ticket for the quarters.
In Canada, their first match went viral thanks to the amazing efficiency of social networks and #Shauger.
That’s SHA- for Shapovalov plus AUGER.
Needless to say, portmanteaux—words that combines two others—aren’t new and actually pop up often in the language. Think of terms like podcast, smog and mansplain.
How do you feel about Shauger?
I’ll come back to it. First, let’s take a look at some of the tennis monikers that came before.
FEDAL, THE WOODIES AND ISNERMAN
The most recent and most well-known tennis nickname belongs to two men who didn’t actually team up all that much.
That’s Fedal, coined at the inaugural edition of Laver Cup in Prague back in September 2017, when the two legends paired up for the very first time. A fabulous and unexpected moment of tennis magic.
And before Fedal, there were several other portmanteau pairs.
Who could forget the fun nickname that became a trademark for our very own Vasek Pospisil and American Jack Sock after they won Wimbledon as an unseeded team in 2014?
Australians Jason Kubler and Rinky Hijikata have yet to decide between Kubikata or Janky. Someone suggested Team Kinky, but the pair turn them down with a smile.
This title, won on their very first joint quest, came almost exactly one year after another Australian duo had secured it for themselves.
Nick Kyrgios and Thanasi Kokkinakis formed the aptly named Special Ks. A nod to the breakfast cereal, the nickname launched a tonne of tie-ins like this t-shirt.
Keeping things in the southern commonwealth, there was the golden age of the Woodies, Todd Woodbridge and Mark Woodforde, who took home 61 pro titles including 11 Slams and 2 Olympic medals (gold in 1996 and silver in 2000).
And as for the most obvious nickname, it still remains the simplest and establishes the greatest doubles pair of all time: the Bryan brothers, Bob and Mike.
The twins won twice as many ATP titles as the Woodies (119), 16 majors and Olympic gold (2012). Bob being left-handed and Mike being right-handed made them the perfect pair.
Last but not least is the most unlikely team.
In May 2022, the tallest man on the ATP Tour joined forces with the shortest, and together they claimed the doubles crown on the clay in Rome. Faster than a speeding bullet, John Isner and Diego Schwartzman became Isnerman—a superhero nickname that stuck from the get-go.
YEA OR NAY?
Getting back to Shauger.
Do you like it?
Alexandre Régimbald, who hosts the weekly Sur La Ligne National Bank Open podcast and was at the match, wondered if Shapoliassime might be a better choice.
A lot of letters, for sure.
There were a few other suggestions, including mine:
Care to add any?
Regardless of whether the nickname endures or not, we most definitely want to see them on the same side of the net more often.
Their bond and their smiles are irresistible. One fan even dedicated an entire post to Shauger smiles.
Courriel : email@example.com
Twitter : @paul6rivard
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