Denis Shapovalov must be honest with himself

Denis Shapovalov told SportsNet, the Canadian sports broadcasting network, that he is optimistic about the road ahead after losing to Alex de Minaur in the first round of the Rogers Cup in Montreal.

We can take Shapo’s words at face value. We can give him the benefit of the doubt and allow his words to stand on their own without reflexively insisting that — actually — no, he really shouldn’t be optimistic. Fine, Shapo: We’ll trust you. We’ll trust that you’re being sincere and that you aren’t blowing smoke.

However: If you claim that you’re optimistic after losing a home-nation tournament, part of a miserable summer in a very disappointing season, you better start performing at a level which justifies the claim (and the optimism attached to it).

There is nothing productive about claiming to be optimistic if, in fact, there is no reason to be optimistic. Again, we’re not doubting Shapovalov here; we’re only saying that he needs to back up the optimistic talk. If he did find something which can generate a turnaround, that’s great.

Yet, what if things don’t improve? What then? How will Shapo convince himself he can get better?

We all know that athletes need to believe in themselves and be positive. This is part of the psychology of sports and competition. Yet, confidence must coexist with honesty. Athletes mired in slumps — as Shapovalov is — obviously shouldn’t berate themselves or mope around with slumped shoulders, but this doesn’t mean they should ignore flaws or fail to fix problems.

Shapo seems to think a fix is in sight. If so, that’s fantastic. He just needs to be honest about how long it might take — and how difficult it might be — to implement a series of repairs to a career which might not be broken, but is certainly not humming along with efficiency.

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