Food Court: Shapovalov On Sushi, Sliders & The Problem With Bananas
Denis Shapovalov is renowned as one of the cleanest ball-strikers on the ATP Tour, but where does the World No. 16’s power come from? The 23-year-old, who spearheaded Team Canada’s charge to the 2022 ATP Cup alongside Felix Auger-Aliassime, is happy to take advantage of the nutritional value of bananas when on court, but he isn’t so sold on the taste.
Shapovalov would rather be tucking into a good hamburger, but he admits it wouldn’t be him doing the cooking. Not unless eggs are involved…
In this edition of The Tour – Food Court, Shapovalov reveals to ATPTour.com how he plans his matchday meals, his favourite spot to eat in Toronto, and more.
Let’s say you have to cook something, what would you cook for dinner and why?
My gourmet skills are in scrambled eggs! That’s where my chef skills end, so I would cook some eggs.
Do you want to try and learn to cook more things?
Definitely. My girlfriend [Swedish WTA star Mirjam Bjorklund] and I keep saying we want to take some cooking classes together, but we just don’t have the time right now. Definitely down the road, it’s something that interests us both. Right now for me, I’m just in charge of making the omelettes! That’s my role.
What’s your guilty pleasure? Would you eat it every so often or very rarely?
I’ve got to say probably a good hamburger. I’ll have it once in a while, definitely not during tournaments and stuff like that, but if I finish a tournament or if I’m training, for sure. I like to go for a nice burger.
What would you put on it?
Honestly, it’s pretty simple. Obviously ketchup, mustard, tomatoes, lettuce, pickles, that’s pretty much it. And a good bun, the bun is very important. Just a good Italian or white bun. It’s got to be good quality, it’s got to be fresh. The bun is what makes or breaks it.
Do you eat something specific the night before a match, or does it not matter so much?
Yeah, there are a couple of things. Obviously, it’s not always the same thing but it’s definitely more on the healthier side. Either some pasta, some salmon and rice, or some sushi. Those are probably the three things that I kind of pick from.
What kind of sushi?
Probably just salmon avocado, or tuna.
On the day of a match, do you have to eat a certain amount of time before the match? Do you have a routine?
I like to have at least an hour and a half to digest, so I try to eat two hours before the match. I like to get my warm-up in before I eat, so I’ll kind of backtrack my day. When I want to mobilise, when I want to warm up, based off when I want to eat before my match.
During a match, has your snack routine changed? Some guys eat gels now, when they used to eat bananas, for example.
It’s always been bananas for me, unfortunately, I hate bananas! My coach growing up, Adriano, told me that it’s a big secret to winning, having a banana. I’ve followed it since that day, even though I hate it.
Did you always hate them, or just grown to hate them because you eat them so much?
I’ve never liked them. I think the hatred grew out of me always eating them. So we’ll have bananas at the house all the time, but I’ll never touch them, and I’ve never wanted to.
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Have you ever tried something different?
I tried to look into more nutrition and what I could be having out on court, gels and stuff like that. But early on in my career, I got a little bit sick with food poisoning from a gel, so I went back to bananas!
Some guys have specialty drinks that they make for on court. Do you, or do you just drink water?
I have some sports drinks that I make, but I’m not really particular in what I use.
How different is your diet in a tournament week compared to a training week?
It’s different. Obviously I am not just walking around eating junk food during training weeks, but I’m not so picky during those weeks. I feel like if I just keep that diet I have during tournament weeks…I’ll go crazy if I have to do that every single week. So I try to give myself some freedom during weeks that aren’t so important.
It must be hard to stay strict with your diet for an extended period of time if you didn’t do that?
Yeah, it’s just not my personality, it’s not the way I’m built, to always follow a strict diet or routine. I’ve always been a little bit more open and enjoying changing food up [instead] of getting bored. It’s definitely just the way I am.
Is there a meal from your childhood that you still enjoy?
My mum made some really good dishes, a lot of Russian dishes really well. Mashed potatoes with some breaded chicken — probably not so Russian, but my favourite dish from her! But for Russian food, Russian dumplings were awesome.
Does MIrjam cook any Swedish stuff for you to try?
She cooks like 95 per cent of the time. Between the two of us, I just make the breakfast. She makes a really good chicken and rice that I enjoy a lot.
Maybe she’ll teach you one day…
Maybe! She makes some good steak as well.
Is there a go-to restaurant that has one meal that is your favourite thing out there?
There is a spot in Toronto that I always visit. Every time I’m there they have the best sliders that I’ve ever had in my life. The restaurant is called Joey’s. Every time I’m back in Toronto I have to visit it.