Shapovalov at Australian Open, 2018. (Dita Alangkara/AP)

The tennis world is having difficulty pronouncing Denis Shapovalov’s last name.  It’s been awhile now that Denis has been playing the circuit, and his star is rising.  He was named the ATP Star of Tomorrow for 2017 for heaven’s sake.  Patience with mangled pronunciations is running thin.  Come on!

(Photo credit above:  Dita Alangkara/AP, Australian Open 2018). 

People know what he looks like, how he plays, and that he is Canadian.  No question, he is a fan and media favorite.   He doesn’t seem to mind that neither referees, interviewers, broadcasters, nor fans can say his name correctly.  He laughs it off in a Canadian kind of way.  It’s getting embarrassing.  Sorry, but announcers are doing a poor job of a relatively simple pronunciation.  Let’s stop being so Canadian and insist that at least the professionals give the Shapovalov name the respect it deserves.

 “The man sitting beside me on the airplane glances at the tennis racket sticking out of my carry-on.  I ask him if he follows tennis.   “Yes, I watch tennis, but only when the Canadians are playing, you know, that young one, what’s his name, Sh…v… something?”

Here is the 101 on how to say “Shapovalov”.

  • First of all, “Denis” rhymes with “Tennis”. So perfect.  How many other sports figures have first names that rhyme with their sport?  Sterling does curling?
  • Start with “Shapo”, the first two syllables. Accent is on the first syllable:  “SHAP-o.  LOUD then soft.  Think: rhymes with SLAP.  SLAP the ball.  “SHAP-o.”
  • Note that SHAP-o, has an “A” first syllable, and an “O” second syllable. “A” then “O”.  SHAP-o.
  • Now moving on to the last two syllables. They also have an “A” then an “O”, and the first syllable is loudest, just like in SHAP-o.  So we have VAL-ov.  LOUD then soft.  “A” then “O”.  VAL-ov.
  • For “VAL-ov”, think “Volley”.
  • So you SLAP the ball for SHAP-o, and then you VOLLEY the ball for VAL-ov. SLAP then VOLLey.
  • There you have it: SHAP-o,   VAL-ov.        Shapovalov.

Professional sportscasters are usually amazingly adept at pronouncing players’ names.  This applies especially to Canadian announcers who can rattle off Russian hockey player names without a stumble.  Everyone is talking about Denis Shapovalov, or trying to.  Let’s master his last name so we can focus on how skilled and entertaining he is on court.   For all of you Canadians at Indian Wells over the next couple of weeks, MAKE IT RIGHT, and teach as many as you can the proper “Shapovalov” pronunciation, eh?

How about referees and broadcasters spending a couple of minutes on the pronunciation guide, then the domino effect should take over and everyone will have it mastered.  We’re not sorry anymore, say it like it should be, Denis Shapovalov (final tip:  accent on first and third syllables).

You can hear Denis pronouncing his own name at this link.

Reactions to recurring mispronunciations of “Shapovalov” are becoming as cold as ice. Ice sculpture by Chef Steve Buzak, Royal Glenora Club, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  Photo by Susan Wells.