Mirjam Bjorklund was battling deep into the third set of her first-round match at the Miami Open presented by Itau on Tuesday against Jasmine Paolini. The Swede had never won a qualifying match at a WTA 1000 match before, but she qualified and put herself in a position to reach the second round of the main draw.
When Bjorklund walked to the side of the court to collect her towel, longtime boyfriend Denis Shapovalov was in the front row cheering her on.
“I wouldn’t call it coaching,” Shapovalov said. “As players we try to help each other out if we see something, but it’s more support than anything.”
Bjorklund clawed past Paolini 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 for one of the biggest wins of her career. Nobody was happier than Shapovalov.
“It’s always nice to get a first,” Shapovalov said. “She lost first-round qualifying the past two years in tough matches, so for her to win both qualifying matches and the first round is massive. We’ll see where she can take it from here.”
Bjorklund added: “It’s where I’m striving to get to. These matches help me develop a lot and I need these challenges to see what’s missing in my game and to know what I should work on so I can take the next step. I feel like I’ve developed over the last year a lot just by being around really good players and having the chance to play against them, so this is definitely something that I’m very excited about.”
The Canadian and Swede were born less than nine months apart. Bjorklund is 24 and Shapovalov turns 24 next month, but they did not know each other well in the juniors.
“We knew each other a little bit in juniors but not a lot. He was doing a lot better than I was, so I would just see his name in the finals and I would be on a flight back home, but I didn’t know him personally at that time,” Bjorklund said. “We got to know each other a couple years later.”
The pair began dating in 2019 and they have been one another’s biggest supporter ever since. The ATP Tour and Hologic WTA Tour calendars take the world’s best players throughout the world, and it is not often they are able to be there for one another in person.
That made a moment like Bjorklund’s match Tuesday in Miami even more special.
“Denis can’t be around all the time when I’m playing events, so it’s super nice to have him support me in the box and I think he has a great eye for my game and for tennis in general, so I really trust him when he tells me things and when he coaches me, but he’s very keen on the fact that he’s not my coach,” said Bjorklund, who is coached by legendary Swede Jonas Bjorkman. “He’s just my boyfriend and supporting [me] in those moments, but I do really appreciate that and I know that I can trust what he’s saying, so it’s very reassuring when I have him there.”
The couple enjoys speaking about tennis away from the venue, too. “She’s extremely smart, you can see that on the court. I always try to ask her questions and vice versa. We both trust each other a lot,” Shapovalov said.
According to Bjorklund, they both see the game similarly, with an aggressive mindset. Another perk of their relationship is understanding what one another is going through during the highs and the lows.
”We always find a way to support each other and have a good time and that can definitely help if things are not going the way you want on court.”
Shapovalov will play Guido Pella in the Miami second round and Bjorklund will continue her tournament against Ostapenko.
“It’s obviously what I’m here for. This is a great feeling. It was my first WTA 1000 win ever in the qualifying and to go on and actually win a round in the main draw and get myself a spot in the second round and having the chance to play against top players is really fun,” Bjorklund said. “I’m super happy and I’m very excited for the next round.”
No matter what happens, Shapovalov will be by her side and vice versa.