Canada won its first Davis Cup title, easily defeating Australia as Denis Shapovalov and Félix Auger-Aliassime beat rivals Thanasi Kokkinakis and Alex De Minaur in the final in Malaga.
Australia was seeking their 29th Davis Cup title, and for the first time since 2003, but that wasn’t going to happen as Canada ended its 122-year wait to keep the trophy in the air.
While it was heartbreak for Australia, it was salvation for Canadians.
In 2019, they were defeated 2-0 by Spain led by Rafael Nadal in the first final of the renewed model of the tournament.
After Shapovalov played nearly flawless tennis to beat Kokkinakis 6-2, 6-4 in the opening, it was left to De Minaur to try and emulate some of the feats for which Australian captain Lleyton Hewitt has become famous throughout his career.
But no matter how hard he tried, De Minaur didn’t do well in the big spots, whereas his 22-year-old Canadian rival and world No. 6 could do little wrong as his decisive tire won 6-3.6. -4.
Hewitt said the loss was devastating for the Australian team.
“I was sick of the kids. They were dedicated and worked and did absolutely everything right all year,” Hewitt said.
«Once again they left everything there; we were a bit understaffed, but I couldn’t be more proud of that – and all of Australia should be proud.»
Auger-Aliassime described the victory as «a dream come true» for Canada and himself.
“These guys around me … We grew up together when we were 7-8 years old in Canada dreaming of winning these types of games and getting to the stage of winning the Davis Cup,” Auger-Aliassime said.
«A great moment for myself and the country.»
One timeout per set was enough for the rising Canadian star, but the match could have been very different if De Minaur had taken advantage of his opportunities.
The Australian earned eight timeout points against four of Auger-Aliassime, but never got the time-out he needed.
The resentment started when Auger-Aliassime got out of trouble in the opening match at 15-40. He also saved a breaking point in the next serving game, before giving the Australian a 5-3 lead and serving the opening set.
The second set was played similarly.
De Minaur had his breaking point again in the Canadian’s opening serve game, but was saved before breaking to put Auger-Aliassime up 2-1.
The Australian’s serve was broken, but his spirit was not, and he mustered his fighting prowess, reminiscent of Hewitt’s heyday.
De Minaur roared on the pitch as he kept the 2-3 score, then gave himself three timeouts while playing defense in the next game, and then made Hewitt’s hallmark, an excellent backhand lob, to get a triple break point.
A turning point seemed almost inevitable, but Auger-Aliassime saved all three with big serves and forehands before they managed to finish the game and the championship with minimal fuss.
The situation was almost the same for Shapovalov in the first singles rubber.
The left-handed player was in excellent contact from the opening spot at Palacio de Deportes José María Martín Carpena, breaking Kokkinakis’ opening two-serve game with a powerful precision strike.
In the first competitive encounter between the two, Kokkinakis struggled to set the pace in the rallies and Shapovalov dominated the forehand.
World number 18 Shapovalov was coming into the game, losing both quarterfinal and semifinal tires against Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany and Lorenzo Sonego of Italy – making three double mistakes to the Italian in the final match.
But in this final, the 23-year-old Canadian showed no signs of tension, and he responded to every forced mistake with more daring shots.
Kokkinakis finally made it to the board in game five, but surrendered the first set at just 32 minutes.
The Australian player, who is 95th in the world and playing in the second game of the week, showed what he can do, including a stunning cross-court backhand winner 2-5 behind.
But every time he lifted Kokkinakis, Shapovalov slapped him and countered with a glorious relegation shot to keep serving and get back on course to take the opening set.
Shapovalov broke again in the third game of the second set, but Kokkinakis earned three breakouts in game four of a marathon thanks to safer-than-baseline hits targeting the Canadian’s backhand.
Kokkinakis was much better in the second set and saved two breaking points in game seven of the set with some excellent deep serves.
A double mistake, however, gave Shapovalov a double timeout and a chance to serve in the match.
Kokkinakis responded immediately after a wildly mistaken rank service game from the Canadian to win a surprising lifeline, reinforced by a comeback, a clinging to love.
But when Shapovalov rounded out the victory, the nerves broke out in the next game.
The final defeat in 2019 had hurt Shapovalov badly, as was the case in an incident in 2017 when he hit the chair referee with a violently hit ball and saw him default with Great Britain on the decisive tire of the quarterfinals.
This victory seemed to have finally left that pain behind.
«We were in the final a few years ago…it was a tough game to lose and we left with an empty feeling, so we wanted that very much,» he said.
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