Tennis

Canada win Davis Cup behind Felix Auger-Aliassime, Denis Shapovalov

MALAGA, Spain — Felix Auger-Aliassime fell on his back behind the baseline and then waited for his teammates to run off the Canada bench and pile on top of him.

Minutes later, the Canadians were finally able to lift the Davis Cup.

“I think of all of us here, we have dreamed of this moment,” Auger-Aliassime said.

Canada won the title for the first time on Sunday, beating Australia thanks to wins by Denis Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime.

Auger-Aliassime secured the winning point when he beat Alex de Minaur 6-3, 6-4 after Shapovalov opened the day by beating Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-2, 6-4.

Seven years after leading Canada to the pinnacle of junior tennis, Auger-Aliassime, Shapovalov and their teammates were finally able to lift the biggest team trophy in their sport.

“We wanted to grow and be part of the team and try to help the country win the first title,” Shapovalov said, “so everything is so surreal right now.”

Shapovalov had lost both of his singles matches this week and needed treatment on his back during a three-set semifinal loss to Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego on Saturday that lasted 3 hours, 15 minutes. But the lefty moved quickly around the court on Sunday, creating angles to score winners as he raced to a 4-0 first-set lead.

Auger-Aliassime then capped off his excellent second half of the season by completing a perfect week in Spain. Twice she had kept the Canadians alive after Shapovalov fell in the opening singles match, and on Saturday she replaced her tired teammate to team up with Vasek Pospisil for the decisive doubles point.

This time, Auger-Aliassime made sure the doubles match wasn’t even necessary. After his teammates entered the court to celebrate with him, they got up and danced in a circle.

Canada had reached the final just once, losing to Spain in Madrid in 2019, when Rafael Nadal beat Shapovalov on the deciding point after Auger-Aliassime lost in the opening match.

But with Auger-Aliassime since rising in the rankings to No. 6, the Canadians are a much more formidable team now. They won the ATP Cup in January and ultimately added the Davis Cup crown to the Davis Cup junior title that Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov took to them in 2015.

Australia were seeking their 29th title and their first since reigning captain Lleyton Hewitt was part of the title-winning team in 2003.

But finally it was time for the Canadians, who were given a wild card on the field when Russia was suspended due to its invasion of Ukraine.

“Look, I think we were very close today,” de Minaur said. “Just wait until the next time we have the same matchup. Hopefully we can get the win and show that we can do it.”

But Canada will be hard to beat as long as Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov play.

Shapovalov is just 23 and Auger-Aliassime 22, but both have already been Grand Slam semifinalists. Auger-Aliassime ended 2022 as one of the best players on the ATP Tour. He’s won all four of his titles this year, including three straight weeks in October.

He also beat Carlos Alcaraz at the previous stage of the Davis Cup in September, just after the Spaniard won the US Open to move up to No. 1 in the rankings. That victory helped send the Canadians to the quarterfinals, which began this week by beating Germany.

“They’re not kids anymore, that’s for sure. Not after today, well, not after the last two years,” said Pospisil, the 32-year veteran of the team. “They’ve been crushing it.”

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