What an effort. What a week. What a team.
They won’t be coming home with the Davis Cup trophy but in reaching the final of the 119-year-old tournament for the first time in the country’s history, the BMW Canadian Davis Cup team will surely have inspired the next generation to pick up a racquet.
Losses for Félix Auger-Aliassime to Roberto Bautista Agut (7-6, 6-3) and Denis Shapovalov to Rafael Nadal (6-3, 7-6) ensured Spain claimed their sixth Davis Cup title – but Canada will return home with all the pride in the world.
Auger-Aliassime, ranked No. 21 on the ATP Tour, was drafted into the singles line-up for the first rubber by captain Frank Dancevic having sat out the tournament thus far. His opponent, Bautista Agut (No. 9), who had the backing of a 12,000-strong home crowd, returned to the Spanish team after taking some time away from the event due to the passing of his father.
There was some terrific tennis on display in the first set as both players showed immense concentration – but neither of them could find a way past their opponent and it remained on serve until what seemed an inevitable tiebreak. Serving at 3-4, Auger-Aliassime went down a minibreak as Bautista Agut crafted a two-point lead. The Spaniard would use that momentum to go on and win it 7-3, forcing the Canadian into hitting his shot long on set point.
The second set didn’t start well for Auger-Aliassime as the Canadian fell 2-0 behind early on. On his third break point of the Canadian’s first service game, Bautista Agut applied relentless pressure and forced the Montrealer to hit long. However, Auger-Aliassime soon broke back to put the set back on serve – Hawkeye confirming his game-winning forehand had kissed the baseline.
At that point, momentum seemed to be with the 19-year-old – but Bautista Agut was determined to restore his lead. He would do so in the very next game, manufacturing three break points and taking the first. From there on in, the Spaniard held his serve to see out the second set 6-3 and therefore the match.
Two previous meetings had seen Shapovalov merit a 1-1 record against Nadal heading into the day’s second rubber. The first of those matches was the Canadian’s breakout win at Rogers Cup presented by National Bank in 2017 when he delighted the Montreal crowd with an unlikely 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(4) victory.
Shapovalov went behind early in this match, though, firing into the net at 30:30 on his own serve to hand Nadal a break point. The 20-year-old then sent a forehand wide to ensure the Spaniard took a 4-2 lead. It was an advantage Nadal wouldn’t relinquish as he went on to claim the first set 6-3.
The second set remained on serve – although Shapovalov, who had raised his level, did give the reigning US Open champion a scare in game six when he manufactured a break point. He couldn’t take it, though, as Nadal stood strong to hold. The level of tennis on show was sky high as both players produced some tremendous shots and it almost felt apt that the set would be decided by a tiebreak.
In a tense exchange, Shapovalov went 2-0 ahead in the tiebreak as Nadal hit long by just millimetres to hand the Canadian a minibreak. The World No. 1 levelled things up quickly, though, to bring it back on serve and then went up a minibreak of his own as Shapovalov hit wide left.
One point later and Nadal was serving for the match, and the championship, but his Canadian opponent just wouldn’t lie down, producing an incredible passing forehand to break back before winning the next two points on his own serve.
However, it proved third time lucky for Nadal who, on Shapovalov’s serve, produced a stunning return cross-court, which the young Canadian could only hit into the net. The win meant Spain claimed their sixth World Championship but there’s no doubting Frank Dancevic’s team will take great heart and encouragement from their incredible run.