Shapovalov was playing in just his fourth match since last year's Wimbledon, having spent considerable time rehabbing from injuries. He required a wild card to play in his comeback tournament at the ASB Classic in Auckland last month.
However, he lost quite routinely to Sebastian Ofner. And on his second outing at the Australian Open, where he used a Protected Ranking for a main draw berth, Shapovalov was eliminated at the first hurdle by talented Czech teenager Jakub Mensik.
In his pursuit of more minutes to restore match sharpness, Shapovalov signed up to play at the Montpellier Open for the first time since 2020. The 24-year-old is a former quarterfinalist in these parts and looked certain to get there again.
Shapovalov destroyed France's Hugo Gaston in the first round for a loss of four games and played some solid tennis to win the first set 6-1 against Alexander Bublik in the second round.
On course to pick up his first Top 30 win of the season, Shapovalov was quite stunned by the trick Bublik pulled out in the early goings of the second set.
Bublik had a chance to break the Canadian's big serve at 1-1 and decided to risk it all and hug the inside baseline in order to get sufficient purchase on the return. The video below shows a confident Bublik well inside the area between the baseline and the half-court.
It was on a second serve. Shapovalov saw his opponent make this move just before tossing the ball to serve, only to do a double-take on serve. Shapovalov was not perturbed and hit the second serve with immense power, and his follow-up forehand winner was even better to snuff away the chance.
Ultimately, though, Bublik completed a huge turnaround, winning the next two sets and the match. Shapovalov, who withdrew from Canada's Davis Cup qualifying, squandered three match points and now has to wait to add to his win column in 2024.