Toronto's most inspiring people of 2016: Daniel Nestor on junior tennis phenom Denis Shapovalov

His inspirational 2016: Won the Wimbledon Junior Championships; ranked second junior in the world

I’ve been impressed with Denis from day one. I remember hitting with him in the summer of 2015 and I thought he was 18. 

I remember the first thing I said was, “He’s good, but not that great,” because I had hit with other 18-year-olds. Then someone told me he was 15, and I said, “Oh my god, this guy’s unbelievable for his age.”

And I’ve seen him progress as a junior into one of the top juniors in the world.

I hit with him at the end of last year, and we were pretty much the same level. Even at my age, if I feel like I’m playing well indoors (which I was), I feel like I can play with a lot of the top players. I was so surprised that he was playing at that level too.

When he won the boys Wimbledon Junior Championship, I wasn’t surprised. He’s playing at a high level, so I knew that it was only a matter of time until he started winning tournaments like that, and he’s tough mentally, which is the most important thing.

He’s got the full package. He’s got a huge serve and he’s very solid on both wings. He’s able to hit big shots, and that’s key to making the transition to the pros. And it’s not just his tennis, he’s a good kid overall.

From his amazing accomplishments, his age and his maturity, you don’t see too many athletes excelling at that level at his age. I think it’s a huge testament to his hard work and dedication to the sport.

In the next three years, I expect him to be a top 50 player — eventually a top 20 player — and hopefully, even higher than that. He’s got a really bright future. He’s got the right people around him, and the sky’s the limit.

Daniel Nestor is one of Canada's best-known professional tennis players. This is the eleventh story in our multi-part series on the most inspiring Torontonians of 2016. Yesterday's featured Kristian Bruun on Tatiana Maslany.

The full index of our stories about Toronto's most inspiring people of 2016.

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