At the ATP Tour event in New Zealand this week, Shapovalov found himself coming full circle from that week in Montreal.
He had same first-round opponent in Rogerio Dutra Silva, and the same second-round opponent in Juan Martin del Potro of Argentina.
The outcome was not the same.
Shapovalov shocked the tennis world by pulling off the upset last summer. In Auckland this week, del Potro defeated Shapovalov 6-2, 6-4, in just over an hour.
It was del Potro’s first official match of the season.
Shapovalov’s fellow Ontarian Bianca Andreescu likely can relate.
The 17-year-old reached the quarter-finals of her first WTA Tour event as an official professional, in Washington, D.C., last August.
Since then, it’s been a struggle.
Andreescu bowed out in the first round of qualifying at the Australian Open Thursday. She managed just two games against veteran Romanian Alexandra Dulgheru.
For Shapovalov and Andreescu, the key will be to weather the storm, get better and ignore the expectations.
Raonic and Bouchard have to do much more than that.
Raonic is no longer a kid. He turned 27 last month and returns to action after being out with a wrist injury, then a calf issue, for nearly five months.
He is down to No. 23 in the ATP Tour rankings, seeded No. 22 at the Australian Open.
Raonic definitely still not 100 per cent, fitness-wise. And he’s had just one official match as preparation for the Australian Open.
Bouchard managed to keep her ranking somewhat respectable through the last three seasons with a few solid results each season
But now, it’s crunch time.
The Westmount, Que., native turns 24 next month. Like Raonic, she’s no longer the young, rising star who took opponents by surprise.
Bouchard arrived in Australia with some significant early 2017 results that she needed to defend, just to maintain her ranking inside the top 100.
She couldn’t do it.
Bouchard opted to play the exhibition Hopman Cup the first week of the season rather than an official WTA Tour event that might have earned her ranking points. She lost all three of her singles matches there.
The Canadian then accepted a wild card into a small event in Tasmania this week.
She lost in the first round. Aryna Sabalenka, a powerful teenager from Belarus, blew her off the court with her power.
It was emblematic that Sabalenka is five years younger than Bouchard.
Through these years of struggle, each season has seen a handful of younger players join the mix. All of them are just as talented. And all of them display a fearlessness that Bouchard remembers well, but can no longer elicit from herself.
In other words, there are more obstacles in Bouchard’s way than ever.
She begins the season with another coaching change. Former top American player Harold Solomon worked with her in the off-season in Florida and has made the trip Down Under.
And there is big work to go. Bouchard will officially be out of the top 100 on Monday with that early defeat in Hobart. If she suffers another first-round defeat in Melbourne, she could drop another 20 spots.
In October 2017 Bouchard was ranked No. 5.
The Australian Open draw did offer Bouchard a bit of a break. She will play a hard-hitting Frenchwoman named Océane Dodin who hasn’t played a single match since the 2017 edition of the WTA Tour event in Quebec City, four months ago.
Raonic has a favourable draw through the first two rounds. A potential fourth-round clash with Roger Federer looms if he can play his way into form.
For Shapovalov, it will be a rematch of the semifinal match he played at Wimbledon en route to the boys’ singles title in 2016.
His opponent, Greece’s Stefanos Tsitsipas, did not rocket into the top 50 as Shapovalov did. Eight months older, taller and lankier, also the owner of a one-handed backhand, Tsitsipas’s rise has been healthier, more gradual.
He’s currently ranked No. 80, a career high.
In this first meeting in the pros between the two teenagers, it is Shapovalov who will bear the lion’s share of the pressure.
And how he responds to it may foreshadow what 2018 season has in store.