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Shorn locks just first change for tennis star Denis Shapovalov




Denis Shapovalov has lopped off his signature tresses, the heavy blond mane usually restrained by a baseball cap flipped around backwards.

“I liked my long locks but I just wanted to switch it up, go short a bit. It got a little boring for me. It was just kind of in the moment, you know? Screw it, let’s go shorter.”

Ch-ch-ch-changes, the Richmond Hill teenager has undergone a few.

Oh, the 19-year-old lefty is still a smashing entertainer on the tennis circuit, climbing up the ATP pecking order — achieved new career-high rankings 11 times in 2018, his sophomore season on the big boys tour, currently No. 27.

But he’s also feeling the whirl of it all and for the first time is acknowledging sheer exhaustion.

Shapovalov withdrew from the Next Gen finals earlier this month after qualifying a second straight year for an event showcasing the sport’s young studs. Just prior, he’d struggled in a first-run loss in Paris, losing in straight sets to Richard Gasquet despite racing out to a 3-0 lead in the first. That performance convinced him he’d run out of gas.

For the moment.

“Look, at the end of the day I’m only 19,” Shapovalov told the Star this past week following an exhibition match against Davis Cup captain Frank Dancevic, a charity gig for the Lights Foundation, in front of a posh crowd at Toronto’s Hotel X.

“I told myself that in the last part of the year I was going to play a lot of tournaments.’’ Which he has. “And obviously it wore me down.’’

Bound to catch up with him, given a non-stop schedule and still trying to figure out how to balance his time, his commitments, his endorsement contracts and his heavy media obligations. A player can consult all he or she likes with colleagues, tour veterans, but ultimately it’s an issue of personal pace beyond the touring commitments. Shapovalov may have been playing tennis under his mother’s training eye since age 5, but it’s been a dizzying calliope pretty much since he won the Wimbledon juniors title in 2016.

Then, of course, came a breakthrough 2017 and that wondrous Rogers Cup in Montreal — dispatching, as a qualifier, the likes of Juan Martin del Potro and then-world No. 2 Rafael Nadal before bowing out to Alexander Zverev in the semis, catapulting him up the rankings. The buzz continued unabated as Shapovalov knocked off “youngest-ever” records straight through his sophomore season as a pro, making history in Madrid as the youngest semifinalist in tournament history — one of three semifinal appearances on the ’18 calendar, albeit he’s yet to collect an ATP title.

No dreaded sophomore slump for Shapo, clearly. But man, so tired.

“Next year I’m going to play it different, definitely,” said Shapovalov, who has recently started working with new coach Rob Steckley. “I’m learning, just as much as my team is learning, everyone’s learning. I just ran out of fuel the last couple of weeks. I pushed through it, did everything I could, but it just wasn’t in me.

“I made the call. I said: Listen, right now I’d rather just go home. Just see my family, rest up for the off-season, come back in 2019 on fire and ready to go again.’’

It was, he’s certain, the right decision, allowing him a fortnight of grace with the folks before heading to the Bahamas to regird his tennis loins.

The punishing schedule has become a point of contention for all players, having to defend points, expected by the ATP to draw ticket-buyers for tournaments all over the world. It’s a non-stop global odyssey.

“Zverev has addressed it a couple of times and I’m definitely going to address it as well. It’s got to change. You can’t keep adding weeks in the year and just expect us to show up every time. It’s a long season and we’re obligated to play a lot of tournaments. And it’s everything — the travel, switching hotels. Even when you’re not playing a tournament week, you’ve got to practise, you’ve got to get ready for the following one.”

Shapovalov notes that it’s even more draining for young players, in the No. 30 to 40 range, trying to climb the rankings ladder. Like best friend and compatriot Felix Auger-Aliassime, he’s scrambled between the ATP 1000 series, the 500, even the 250. “So that we can get points to get into the bigger tournaments. It drains you and it’s obviously understandable why guys like Rafa and Stan (Wawrinka) and these guys are getting injured. It’s impossible to go a career without injuries because it’s so much tennis, so much wear on your body.’’

He’s still growing into his, at six feet and 167 pounds, building muscle and stamina. But certainly Shapovalov has established his tennis trademarks: explosive energy, dramatic leaping winners, massive flat balls on the backhand, a dogged ability to rally.

At times, it seems like the vaunted Next Gen set is indistinguishable one from another, perhaps because so many of the young men look alike — tall, gangly, fair-haired and not yet a slam-challenge for the vintage Big Four, though Zverev mounted the superstar crest by last weekend beating Novak Djokovic in the ATP final.

“There’s a lot of talent on the rise,” says Shapovalov, “a lot of guys that are the real deal. It’s motivating in a way. Almost every week there’s someone else, someone new, doing really well. It’s inspiring for all of us. Everyone is different. (Daniil) Medvedev has his own style, (Stefanos) Tsitsipas has his own style. I have my own style. We all have weapons and weaknesses. It’s going to be interesting to see who’s able to be the best version of themselves, who’s on top the next couple of years. I definitely see a lot of rank changes in the coming years.’’

He’s lived that already, his career rocket-propelled.

“I believe I’m capable of beating anyone out there. But obviously I did not expect to be where I am at this moment. It’s been happening so quick. Mentally, I’ve had to kind of catch up, you know? When my ranking shot up to 50, I was like, what is going on? I was 150 just two months ago and now it’s a completely different ball game. I’m playing top guys all the time.

“This year I just wanted to stay top 50, maintain that ranking. So I’m really happy to be where I am, 27 in the world. It’s a huge jump from last year. It’s been a really successful season for me. But I have so much room to improve and to grow, so I’m really excited to hit the off-season, hit the next year.”

Shapovalov was asked, if he could time travel, what advice his 19-year-old self would have given his 17-year-old self.

He laughed.

“I’d tell him that at 19 you’re going to be 27 in the world. Any my 17-year-old self would tell me that I’m full of s–t.’’

Rosie DiManno is a columnist based in Toronto covering sports and current affairs. Follow her on Twitter: @rdimanno


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12 strategies to manage credit card payments and debt




Today, almost everyone carries a credit card in their wallets. It is used to pay for almost everything from groceries to flight tickets to gas.

If managed properly, credit cards can be an essential financial tool that allows users to build credible credit, earn money back and gain great perks, like purchase protection and insurance. However, carrying a poor credit balance can plunge you into massive debt.

“Credit card debt is very high-interest debt, typically in the neighbourhood of 20% or more,” said Scott Hannah, president and CEO of Credit Counselling Society in a report.

If you have a balance payment on your credit card, clearing it off can be a difficult task if you’re a low-income earner—or you’ve already incurred too much debt that after using a credit card payment calculator you know you’ll be unable to pay back.

However, no matter how terrible you think your current situation is, there’s always a way out that works best for you. With interest on loans compounding everyday, there’s little wonder why clearing a credit card debt is so difficult. In fact, according to MNP, an accounting firm, nearly half of all Canadians are less than $200 per month away from becoming financially insolvent.

Tackling credit card debt can seem quite tedious, especially with many people choosing to ignore the problem and just keep making the minimum payment. Here are some practical strategies you can take advantage of to effectively tackle credit card debt.

1. Gain a complete understanding of your debt problem

This starting point for anyone trying to get out of debt is to understand why you’re in debt, in the first place.

Critically examine all areas of your finances to determine if your expenses don’t match your finances or if it was due to an unforeseen circumstance such as a medical emergency. Whatever the case may be, it is very important to know the reason why you are in so much debt so you can effectively tackle the root cause.

2. Look into your spending habits

Typically, one quick way to stop yourself from running into credit card debt is to examine your spending habits. What are the things you spend your credit card on? Are they essentials or things that can be easily done away with?

According to Hannah, most people can only account for about 75 to 80 per cent of their monthly expenditures and the remaining gets blurry. It is important to track your expenditure—whether it’s an extra shot of drinks at the bar or a box of cereal from the supermarket. Knowing what you spend money on allows you to build a better financial strategy against debt.

3. Build a budget

Once you have a clear picture of what your monthly expenses are, building a budget becomes the most important step towards managing your income better. Having one central location for tracking both your income and expenses is great in curtailing unnecessary spending and getting you out of debt.

Your budget needs to contain all of your expenses incorporated from essentials like groceries, mortgage, medical care and insurance to others such as utilities. While most people struggle to stick to their budget, you can create some margin for flexibility to make it easier for you.

4. Increase your minimum payment

For most credit cards, the minimum payment is approximately 2 per cent of the last month’s balance. But therein lies the problem because if you consistently pay only the minimum, then the lump of that money goes straight to your interest and not the principal.

Paying some extra money every month would go a long way in helping you clear your credit card debt faster and reduce the compounding interest.

5. Ask for a lower rate

It is very possible to negotiate for a lower rate with your bank; only thing is, most people tend not to do so. If you find yourself struggling with paying back your credit card debt, you can reach out to your lender and ask them to offer you a lower rate.

Long-time customers who have a history of making timely payments have more advantage with getting their request approved.

6. Take advantage of a balance transfer promotion

In a bid to entice new customers, lenders run promotions periodically on balance transfers for their credit cards. Basically, these offers involve having a low-interest rate between 0 to 2 per cent for a limited period—usually between 6 to 10 months.

Always be on the lookout for a lender that offers the lowest rates and longest promotional period, which would give you enough time to clear your debt.

7. Switch to a low-interest credit card

Once you have critically examined your spending habit and created a budget, yet it is obvious that you will always carry over a credit card balance, then it is time to switch to a low-interest credit card.

While these types of credit cards usually have little perks, they are quite useful in wiping a couple of percentage points off your interest. Typically, rates on low-interest credit cards vary but they could be as low as half the interest on a regular card.

8. Begin an avalanche

The avalanche method is great for those who have a lot of debt with several creditors. This method means you’d make the minimum payments on all your existing debts and then add any extra income to the debt that has the highest interest rate.

Using the avalanche method allows you to reduce the interest paid while clearing multiple debts.

9. Use the debt snowball approach

Another debt repayment strategy that you should consider is the debt snowball method. In this strategy, you would focus on paying off your small debt first before moving to the larger ones—all whilst still paying the minimum on all other debt—regardless of interest rate.

10. Get an extra income source

Creating additional streams of income goes a long way in helping you clear your credit card debt. By finding a better paying job or choosing a good side hustle, you can easily put down more money towards your debt repayment.

There’s a lot of gigs you can offer today to raise extra money such as writing, graphic design, proofreading, teaching and programming.

11. Use a personal loan

If your credit card balance is quite high, paying it off using a personal loan may be very advantageous. While the interest rates on credit cards can be as high as 29 per cent, with a good credit score you can qualify for a personal loan at a lower rate.

The main advantage of using this strategy is being able to pay off multiple credit card debts and focus on making single but fixed monthly payments on the remaining loan. Also, you spend lesser money on interest costs and repaying the loan in instalment would boost your credit score.

12. Spend more cash

Despite being very valuable items, credit cards can quickly run you into massive debt when not used properly. If you already have some debt yet to be paid, it is better to spend more cash than accumulate more debt on your credit card.

Get a low-interest credit card but only use it in emergencies once you know there isn’t enough money in your bank account to pay off the accumulated debt.

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal




MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow




Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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