“It means a lot to me.” That was Denis Shapovalov’s opening line at his press conference following a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Serbia’s Filip Krajinović which saw the Canadian claim his first career ATP Tour title.

It had been a long time coming for the 20 year old who, before Saturday’s victory over Japan’s Yuichi Sugita, had appeared in several semi-finals since his big breakthrough at the 2017 Rogers Cup in Montreal but had never advanced to the showpiece event.

It was a different story in Stockholm, though. Not only did Shapovalov make it to the final, he won it at a canter.

“Me and my team have put in a lot of work over the years,” he continued, speaking to the media gathered around him, “and it’s been a pretty big goal of ours to try and lift a title. So, I’m just super proud of me and my team.”

In beating Krajinović, Shapovalov became the first Canadian to claim the Stockholm Open crown since the tournament’s inception in 1969. Daniel Nestor did claim the doubles title in 2000 alongside Mark Knowles – but never has a Canadian joined the likes of Boris Becker, Roger Federer and John McEnroe on the singles winners’ board. That is, until now.

“It’s amazing,” Shapovalov said. “This tournament started the year that my mum was born so it’s got a great history and it’s amazing to be the first Canadian to win it. I’ve seen all the amazing names up on that board so it’ll be nice to see my name up there as well.”

Shapovalov’s success in Stockholm capped what has been a remarkable resurgence in recent months. Following a semi-final appearance against Roger Federer at the Miami Open in March, the young Canadian endured a difficult run of form, losing in the first round at Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid, Roland-Garros, Stuttgart, Queen’s Club and Wimbledon.

But, since a semi-final appearance at the Winston-Salem Open in August, Shapovalov has enjoyed a consistent run of positive results.

“It was a tough period for me mentally,” he said, recounting the time between April and July. “I felt like I wasn’t completely there one hundred per cent after Miami. Making such a big run, I wasn’t fully prepared to be on the clay season then I had a couple of tough draws and mentally I wasn’t so fired up to play every match.

“So, after Wimbledon I did a little bit of soul searching, took some time off tennis and found the reason why I enjoy it again. Ever since then, I’ve been playing the sport differently and treating it differently as well.”

(Feature photo: Linda Carlsson/Intrum Stockholm Open)