Canada prevails in Davis Cup action
Updated: Apr 25, 2019
Canadian teenagers Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime stepped up to send Canada into the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Finals with a singles victory apiece on a day when youth trumped experience on Bratislava’s indoor clay.
After the youngsters lost the day’s opening doubles, Canadian No. 1 Shapovalov beat his opposite number Martin Klizan 76(4) 64 to level the tie with Slovakia before Auger-Aliassime fought his way past Norbert Gombos in the deciding match 63 64 to secure a dramatic 3-2 victory for the visitors.
The result means Canada can start planning to be part of the 18-nation Davis Cup Finals held in Madrid’s La Caja Magica in November. Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime will have come full circle should both return to Madrid wearing Canadian colours later this year after they were part of the team that won the Junior Davis Cup at the very same venue in 2015.
“This is really amazing for us,” Canada’s captain Frank Dancevic said. “It’s an exciting new format and we’re really going to enjoy representing our country at the Finals in Madrid.
“In my eyes it’s like the World Cup or the Olympics of tennis where everything is in one spot so it’s really exciting for us to be there.”
In a pressure-cooker of a format when great emphasis is placed on experience, ironically it was the two youngest players at Bratislava’s National Tennis Centre on Saturday: 19-year-old Shapovalov and 18-year-old Auger-Aliassime, who were able to hold their nerve when it really mattered.
Both singles victories were full of positives for the Canadians. Shapovalov was thrilled to beat a player who took down both Dominic Thiem and Novak Djokovic on this surface last year, while Auger-Aliassime arguably had the toughest test of all: to recover from two defeats earlier in the tie during a weekend when he was making his Davis Cup debut.
Saturday had begun with the Slovaks creeping ahead when Klizan and Filip Polasek scored a tight 36 75 63 victory over the Canadian youngsters to put the hosts just a win away from overall victory.
After the Slovaks had made a slow start, it was the doubles specialist Polasek who made the difference, producing some superb tennis at crucial times during the second and third sets.
That result left Shapovalov needing to beat Klizan to keep the Canadians alive and he produced a mature performance under extreme pressure to wrap up a dramatic straight-sets victory.
The world No. 25 needed seven set points to seal the opener and had to save a break point during the final game before he could reflect on a hard-earned point.
Late in the day, it was all eyes on Auger-Aliassime then, and the youngster produced what is surely the most important victory of his young career.
The world No. 106 broke Gombos in the eighth game of the first set before serving it out from 0-30 at 5-3, and crucially again with the Slovakian serving at 4-4 in the second. Moments later the Canadian celebrations began.
“It means everything to get to Madrid,” Shapovalov said. “To qualify for the Finals is a dream come true. We’re still just living what we did today. It was an unbelievable comeback and I’m really proud of Felix and proud of myself. We put in a lot of effort to get here.
“It’s definitely going to be special going back to Madrid. We’ve had a lot of success there - especially me and Felix winning Junior Davis Cup there - and I had a really good week there too last year in singles [reaching the semi-finals of the Madrid Open]. It’s a place where we really like to perform.”
In other Davis Cup ties taking place around the world this weekend, Federer-less Switzerland lost to Russia and Djokovic-less Serbia was just able to to pull off a close victory against Uzbekistan. Here are all the results:
Canada vs Slovakia 3-2
Russia vs Switzerland 3-1
Serbia vs Uzbekistan 3-2
Belgium vs Brazil 3-1
Australia vs Bosnia/Herzegovina 4-0
Italy vs India 3-1
Germany vs Hungary 5-0
Kazakhstan vs Portugal 3-1
Netherlands vs Czech Republic 3-1
Colombia vs Sweden 4-0
Chile vs Austria 3-2
Japan vs China 3-2.
Twelve nations (the above winners) have qualified for the inaugural Davis Cup Finals in November after an absorbing weekend of action. They will join reigning champions Croatia, last year's runners-up France, 2018 semi-finalists Spain and USA as well as wild cards Argentina and Great Britain in Madrid, where the 18 nations will battle it out in a bid to become Davis Cup champions. The group stage of the Finals will comprise of 6 pools (A-F) of 3 teams, which will be drawn on Valentine's Day (February 14th) in Madrid. Let's hope for a great draw for Canada!