On Saturday, Canada qualified for the Davis Cup Final for the very first time in its history when the squad posted a 2-1 win over Russia at the outcome of a fight to the bitter end.
It came as no surprise when captain Frank Dancevic called upon Denis Shapovalov (Richmond Hill, ON) and Vasek Pospisil (Vernon, BC) to play the singles matches for the fourth time this week. Russian captain Shamil Tarpischev selected Karen Khachanov (17) and Andrey Rublev (23).
The tie was the first between Canada and Russia since 1969. The teams had previously met on only one occasion from which Russia emerged victorious.
Pospisil headed out first with a perfect 3-0 Davis Cup Finals record with his three wins over Top 40 players. But the World No.150 couldn’t keep the momentum going and fell in two identical sets (6-4, 6-4). He got off to a slow start, dropping the first eight points and losing his serve. The 29-year-old then tried hard to turn things around but, on his sixth try, Rublev secured the first set. The second set was a lot like the first, and Pospisil was broken again early on. He managed to level the playing field at 3-3, but was broken in the next game and never recovered.
Shapovalov had the pressure of an entire nation on his shoulders in his match against Khachanov. The World No.15 and World No.17 collided for the first time in their careers, and Khachanov’s strong start quickly led him to a 4-1 lead. But Shapovalov found his rhythm, got fired up and won five consecutive games to claim the first set. Khachanov stayed in it and forced a third set with a lone break at 5-4. The Canadian then broke Khachanov at 3-3. Serving for the match at 5-4, the Shapovalov clawed his way back from a 0-40 deficit and nabbed the point for his country.
For a second consecutive tie, Pospisil and Shapovalov teamed up to clinch the nation’s winning point. They fought until the very end—a dramatic third-set tiebreak—to confirm their supremacy over Khachanov and Rublev (3-6, 6-3, 7-6(5)). Both teams demonstrated a tremendously high level of play, but Canada was able to come back from 3-0 and 4-1 in the tiebreaker and take its rightful place in the Davis Cup Finals for the very first time in its history. Canada had come up short in two previous semifinals, the last being in 2013 against Serbia.
The ultimate showdown gets underway at 10:45 a.m. EST on Sunday and will be televised on Sportsnet One. Canada will try to topple the winner of the other semifinal between Spain and Great Britain.
With its semifinal appearance, Canada merited its place in the 2020 Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals, which will also be presented in Madrid, and is therefore exempt from playing in the qualifying event next March.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS
“Today was an incredible match. The doubles, with the buildup, obviously; getting to this moment, the last five days took a lot of emotions, even to get to this match. It’s building, building, building in every match. It gets that much more emotional. It’s a huge success. To win that in the third set tiebreak made it that much more dramatic, that much more special. It’s pretty incredible to make the finals for the first time in history for Canada. And, to do it the way it happened, was very special to be a part of.”
“For me, I’ve been on the tour for 12 years now, and it’s an incredible moment to be a part of it. I was injured in the beginning of this year, had surgery, wasn’t sure how many moments like this I might have, but I got back at a really high level much faster than I expected, which was really nice. I worked really hard for that. Playing in the Davis Cup Final for Canada, it’s pretty incredible.”
“In terms of what we’ve been doing this week, there is really no word for it. I don’t think any of us expected that we could get this far. We knew we had a great team, but you need a bit of luck on your side and to play some ridiculous tennis—play at a ridiculous level—and we played at a ridiculous level today. I’m super stoked to be in the finals. It’s one of my dreams to play in a Davis Cup Final. To bring the country to this position, it’s just a dream come true.”
“It’s been an amazing ride so far as a captain. It’s quite new to me. I’ve been doing this for two and a half years. To be in this position, this early in my captain career, has been amazing. It’s a great team to back it up. These guys are world-class players, and, this week, they’ve played lights out. I’m really happy with everything that’s going on. I wasn’t expecting it. I knew we had a great team, knew we had great players, but to play in a Davis Cup Final is a really big deal. It’s sort of surreal. We have a shot at the title. It’s great.”