Auger-Aliassime bumps slump to beat qualifier at Barcelona Open
The Davis Cup is billed as the “World Championship of Tennis”.
And on Sunday in Malaga, Spain, Canada defeated Australia and won it.
The squad that wasn’t even supposed to be in the finals at all lifted the iconic trophy for the first time since its initial participation back in 1913.
After being swept 4-0 by the Netherlands in a qualifying tie back in March — a tie top players Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov both decided to skip — Canada was given a pass (as the highest-ranked country eliminated) into to the final phases of the event when defending champion Russia was ejected from the tournament following the country’s invasion of Ukraine.
Given a second life, the Canadians got through the elimination rounds in September in Valencia to reach the final eight this week in Malaga.
They defeated Germany in the quarter-finals Thursday, Italy in Saturday’s semifinal and then swept their two singles match versus Australia on Sunday to clinch the title.
“What a way to end the year. It’s Davis Cup and we are the champions, world champions,” said Vasek Pospisil, the veteran of the group.
Captain Frank Dancevic, who took part in the Davis Cup for 14 years as a player, vowed the party would last all night — right through to their 6 a.m. flights on Monday.
Young substitutes Alexis Galarneau and Gabriel Diallo, who undoubtedly will have their part to play in years to come, came into the post-tournament press conference but could barely croak out a few words.
Their unwavering and very vocal support from the sidelines, along with a large contingent of Tennis Canada employees, coaches and support staff, made it a true team effort.
“We faced a lot of obstacles this week. We were down many matches, but we had our spirits high and kept fighting until the end, and we are here now with the trophy. It’s just an incredible feeling,” Dancevic said.
After the nervous moments earlier in the week, the final versus Australia Sunday was almost anticlimactic.
Denis Shapovalov, who was battered physically Saturday after a three-hour 15-minute effort in defeat, came out a new man in the opening match.
He easily defeated a nervous-looking Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-2, 6-4.
And then, to clinch the tie — and the Cup — Felix Auger-Aliassime was just as impressive in dispatching Australian No. 1 Alex de Minaur 6-3, 6-2.
His performance during the week — notably coming in for Shapovalov in doubles against the Italian team on Saturday, to give Canada the opportunity to play in Sunday’s final — was impeccable.
The Canadian men have excelled in team-format competition in recent years, beginning with their surprise run to the final of the first “new-format” Davis Cup in 2019.
They were defeated by the far more experienced Spanish team there.
But Auger-Aliassime was just 19 then; Shapovalov just 20.
Last January down in Australia, Canada won the ATP Cup, a new team competition with a similar format that featured even more of the world’s best players. And on Sunday, it won the ultimate prize.