MALAGA, Spain –
After reaching the finals by the back door, Canada is now looking to win the Davis Cup for the second time in the last three tournaments.
Montreal’s Felix Auger-Aliassime erased Denis Shapovalov’s defeat in the first match of Saturday’s semi-final against Italy with his singles win. The number 6 player in the world then combined with Vasek Pospisil to play doubles as a late substitute to seal a 2-1 victory for Canada.
Canada will face Australia on Sunday (7 a.m. ET), with the winning nation taking home the iconic trophy and sharing the winning team’s $2.5 million prize pool.
“I’m so proud of this team and so proud of the boys, what they’ve achieved,” captain Frank Dancevic said during the team’s post-match meeting. “Certainly we will celebrate a bit tonight, but we have another game tomorrow. The ultimate goal is to win the Cup, and that’s what we have to do.”
Canada lost in qualifying to the Netherlands earlier this year and only advanced to the finals as a “lucky loser” after defending champion Russia withdrew from the international competition.
Team Canada, led by Auger-Aliassime in fine form, then beat South Korea 3-0 and beat Spain 2-1 in the group stage to advance to the knockout stages and quarterfinals. meet Germany.
This will be the 11th time Canada and Australia have met at the Davis Cup, but only the second since 1964.
They met nine times between 1914 and 1964 – each time Australia won. Seven of those matches were played in Montreal, and all but one were a 5-0 win for Australia in the old five-game format, best in five sets.
But Canada won the last game, in the quarterfinals of the 2019 tournament in Madrid en route to the final, where Canada lost to Spain.
When Auger-Aliassime left the field after a 6-3, 6-4 singles win over Italian number one Lorenzo Musetti, he said he was ready to play doubles.
He didn’t know if he was needed or not. But after a 7-6, (4), 6-7 (5), 6-4, three-hour, 15-minute singles loss to Lorenzo Sonego in the opening singles match of the day, during which he had to undergo treatment. upper back. by Tennis Canada’s physical agency, Shapovalov didn’t have much time left.
He played a three-set set in singles and another in doubles in Thursday’s win over Germany to send Canada into the semi-finals.
So Dancevic was replaced by Auger-Aliassime, fresher and in good form.
In a more surprising move, Italy captain Filippo Volandri replaced doubles expert Simone Bolelli, who joined Fabio Fognini in knocking the American out of the quarterfinals, with Matteo Berrettini.
Despite being the highest ranked player on the team, Berrettini is expected to be the cheerleader this week. He hasn’t played since mid-October because of a leg injury.
But Volandri warned him on Saturday that Bolelli’s injury means he may be needed. Berrettini tried to prepare as much as possible, double training.
It’s not enough; The Canadian overcame the early break in the second set and won 7-6 (2), 7-5 to hold the draw.
The celebration was relatively silent, the work still unfinished.
“We know that going into this week we might be able to make some changes depending on how the singles are doing. And I just feel like the whole team has come together around this idea; no ego is misplaced,” says Auger-Aliassime. “People just have a clear idea of the main goal, which is to lift the Cup (Sunday).”
Auger-Aliassime proved a reliable one, for sure in this week’s singles matches.
He beat Oscar Otte in close two sets on Thursday in the quarterfinals to even draw 1-1 and give Shapovalov and Pospisil the chance to win.
And on Saturday before the talented Musetti, he passed again.
The 6-3, 6-4 victory came in less than 90 minutes. And again, Auger-Aliassime dominates on serve.
He won 30 of 33 points on his first serve and has never faced a break point.
Musetti, ranked higher than Sonego but seven years younger, also did not react well to high-risk situations. The 20-year-old was brought onto the court as the number one singles player after both Berrettini and Jannik Sinner had to miss the game due to injuries.
Against a super Sonego, Shapovalov could only save 1 time in 13 opportunities. Much of it was saved by Sonego, not lost by the Canadians.
But Shapovalov made three double errors in two different matches, including in the final match of the marathon.
The match ended with Shapovalov seemingly trying to make a serve volley on the second serve, but the serve fell weakly into the net.
It’s always been a tough ask for the 23-year-old from Richmond Hill, Ont, whose ATP Tour season ended with a second-round loss to Pablo Carreno Busta at the Paris Masters on November 2.
After a short vacation, he went to Marbella, Spain and trained for a week to get ready. But it’s been a challenge to flip the switch back on after a long season.
Shapovalov hopes he can put Canada 1-0 up, rather than trailing, when he opens in Sunday’s final – possibly against Thanasi Kokkinakis or Jordan Thompson.
This will be his first meeting with either player. But the final lineup won’t be known until an hour before the first game.
“I’m feeling pretty good. I’ll do everything I can tomorrow to try to win the singles and take a little bit of pressure off Felix and the rest of us,” Shapovalov said. “I’ve played two tough games and I’ve been in both. I just couldn’t win, but I think I played well. The level is really high. There’s a lot of positives.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on November 26, 2022.