Denis Shapovalov

Today, Canada took to the courts in its opening duel at the Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals, which are underway at Caja Magica in Madrid until November 24. Captain Frank Dancevic chose Denis Shapovalov (Richmond Hill, ON) and Vasek Pospisil (Vernon, BC) to fight the BMW Canadian Davis Cup team’s clash with Italy. They each played a singles match and then teamed up in doubles. Félix Auger-Aliassime (Montréal, QC), who is coming back from an ankle injury and needed more time to prepare, was sidelined.

Pospisil set the pace when he upset World No.12 Fabio Fognini in two tight sets (7-6(5), 7-5) to give his team the first point. In the first set, the Canadian managed to secure a break point and quickly gained a 3-1 lead. Fognini then raised his game and forced a tiebreak, but the Canadian was more convincing on the important points. In the second, the opponents battled up until the very end, when Pospisil earned the break at 5-5 and served for the match.

“I’m very happy with how I played. I’ve been playing well in the last few months, and so I was pretty high on confidence. I feel like my game is in a good place and so is my head,” said Pospisil. “I’m just so happy I could deliver the first point, and it was a very important one. Now that it’s the best of three matches, every match becomes so valuable. It would have been nice to win the doubles. That one didn’t go our way but it was still a very good day for us.”

The nail-biter that pitted Denis Shapovalov against World No.8 Matteo Berrettini will certainly go down in Canadian Davis Cup history. After tussling for nearly three hours, Shapovalov brought the confrontation to an end in three sets (7-6(5), 6-7(3), 7-6(5)). On his way to victory, the 19-year-old Canadian faced down three set points at 4-5 in the first. Both players were brilliant on serve, but, when all was said and done, it was Shapovalov who celebrated when Berrettini’s forehand floated out. With the win, he brings his Canadian Davis Cup record to 8-3.

“It was a very tough match. We both played very well today. We were serving bombs, and, on these courts, the serve makes a big difference,” explained Shapovalov afterwards. “In the end, it only came down to the last point—the forehand he missed on match point. This is an unbelievable win for me today. Matteo is such a great player and he had an incredible season, and so for me to be able to get another win like this is just a big confidence booster.”

Pospisil and Shapovalov then came back onto the Stadium 2 court for their doubles showdown against Berrettini and Fognini. Despite their best efforts, they fell to the Italians in three sets (6-2, 3-6, 6-3).

“It was a very emotional day but I couldn’t be happier with the final result,” affirmed Dancevic. “We weren’t the favourites, but I’m so proud of the players. They gave all they had and the result is incredible.”

Before today, Canada and Italy had only met one other time in Davis Cup. In 2013 in Vancouver, the Canadian squad posted a 3-1 win to qualify for the semifinals for the second time in its history. Milos Raonic prevailed in his two singles matches, and Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil teamed up to net a hard-fought triumph in a match that ended at 15-13 in the fifth set.

Canada will face its next opponent tomorrow starting at noon (EST) when the team completes its first round against the United States. Waiting in the wings are Taylor Fritz (32), Reilly Opelka (36), Sam Querrey (44), Frances Tiafoe (47) and Jack Sock (118 in doubles).