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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, November 27, 2022

 
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Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov scored singles wins lifting Canada to its first Davis Cup championship with a 2-0 win over Australia in Malaga, Spain.

Photo credit: Fran Santiago/Getty

Shared vision and complete commitment to the cause carried Canada to its first Davis Cup championship.

Facing the red-hot cauldron of final pressure, Felix Auger-Aliassime combined commanding cool with a flame-thrower forehand sweeping Alex de Minaur 6-3, 6-4 to clinch Canada's 2-0 Davis Cup final conquest of Australia in Malaga, Spain today.

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When de Minaur's final shot sailed, an ecstatic Auger-Aliassime fell flat on his back wearing a wide smile plastered across his face.




The milestone victory set off an eruption of emotion in Canadian players  spilled onto the court swarming the Canadian No. 1 in a joyous, historic team hug.  

In its 93rd year of Davis Cup competition, Canada celebrated its maiden Davis Cup championship the way it won the Cup with total team unity.




"This is a historic moment," Canadian captain Frank Dancevic said. "We've never won this title in the past. It's the first time for us.

"It's an incredible feeling. I'm so proud of this team and so proud of the guys and the effort they put in. Everyone this week leaving their souls on court; the team spirit has been incredible."

Childhood friends and former roommates Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov realized a shared life-long dream today.

Shapovalov started this dream day defeating Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-2, 6-4 in today's opening singles setting the stage for buddy Auger-Aliassime to close the show with a superb performance that saw him save all eight break points he face.

"For sure the emotions are tough to describe. I think all of us here we've dreamt of this moment," Auger-Aliassime said. "These guys around me except Vasek, he's a little bit older than me, but we grew up together from the ages of 7, 8 years old back in Canada dreaming about being on this stage winning these types of matches, winning the Davis Cup so it's really a dream come true for me personally and I think for all the team.

"That's what we play for, that's what sport is for, that's what tennis is for so it was a great moment for myself and the country."




Chasing the Cup as it were a tennis holy grail, Canada refused to surrender to the pressure or a talented Australian team.

Three years after Canada lost the Davis Cup final to a strong Spanish squad led by Rafa Nadal and Roberto Bautista Agut in Madrid and seven years after Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov led their nation to the junior Davis Cup in Madrid, the Maple Leaf nation are Davis Cup champions.

"We all developed as players individually, we got better and better over the years," Auger-Aliassime said.  "I feel like as we're getting better we're more ready for these types of moments, but it's never easy to pull through.

"We had a great team in front of us. It's great memories for all these guys. We won the first junior Davis Cup for our country so I'm happy we're able to get the first Davis Cup as well."

Former Wimbledon doubles Vasek Pospisil played a pivotal role partnering both Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime to clinching doubles wins over Germany in the quarterfinals and Italy in the semifinals.

A passionate Pospisil, who has played alongside Canadian stars ranging from Daniel Nestor to Milos Raonic to Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov stood proudly shoulder-to-shoulder with his teammates singing the Canadian national anthem with gusto.

"I'm already crying.  It's unbelievable playing for your country and your teammates," Pospisil said. "It's like something so special and we've been dreaming about this for the last several years but especially the last four or five years we knew we could do it.

"To be able to actually be here as world champions I'm speechless. We have an incredible team. We all get along so well it's so special to be able to share it together and bring the Cup back to Canada."




Spare a thought for Australia, which was playing for its first Davis Cup since 2003 when now captain Lleyton Hewitt, Mark Philippoussis and the Woodies led the green-and-gold over host Spain.

Playing without Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios, who ruled himself out, Australia, the second most successful Davis Cup champion behind the United States, did its nation proud with its effort all week.

"I'm gutted for the boys," captain Hewitt said. "You know, they put in their commitment and the work, and they did everything right. They have done absolutely everything all year that we have asked of them as a coaching staff.

"It's not about me or the coaches. We just are trying to help these guys get the most out of themselves. We're just extremely proud of the effort and the commitment and dedication that these guys have shown.

"Yeah, they left it all out there once again. We came up slightly short, but, yeah, I couldn't be prouder."

The 22-year-old Auger-Aliassime earned the first break of the match at 5-3 then served out the opening set at 15.

Auger-Aliassime hit a flurry of forehands breaking to edge ahead 2-1 in the second set.

The sixth-ranked Canadian slammed down a love hold confirming the break for 3-1.

Lightning quick around the court, de Minaur scraped out a brilliant backhand topspin lob that cleared the racquet of the leaping Canadian for triple break point in the sixth game. Pinpoint precision and power on crackling forehands helped the Canadian deny the first break point. Auger-Aliassime thumped heavy serves to save two more break points.

By then, Auger-Aliassime saved all eight break points he faced. Running around his backhand, Auger-Aliassime rocketed a forehand winner down the line to end a tense game with a 4-2 lead and send Canadian players leaping to their feet.

Despite break-point futility, de Minaur's competitive spirit was raging when he flattened a running backhand down the line for love-30 as Auger-Aliassime served for the Cup at 5-4. The Canadian clubbed a crosscourt forehand to draw even at 30-all.

De Minaur yanked a backhand wide giving Canada Cup-clinching point.

Dancing around his backhand, Auger-Aliassime rapped one final forehand down the line to clinch the Cup setting off the emotional fireworks.

Spare a thought for Australia. Captain Lleyton Hewitt's squad was without Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios and battled bravely all week before coming up short in its quest for a first Davis Cup since Hewitt and Mark Philippoussis led the green-and-gold to the 2003 Davis Cup.

In the opening match, Shapovalov, who imploded with three double faults in the final game falling to Lorenzo Sonego in yesterday's semifinals, kept calm igniting a fast start.

Shapovalov won the toss, elected to receive and pounded a series  of deep returns to open with a break. The Canadian consolidated with a love hold for 2-0.  

The left-handed Canadian owns a crackling forehand and imposed it. Shapovalov slammed a forehand return deep down the middle, rattling out the error to break again for 3-0. Moving more fluidly than Kokkinakis, Shapovalov won eight of the first nine points played on his serve, surging to a 4-0 lead after 18 minutes of play.



The force of the Shapovalov forehand backed Kokkinakis up behind the baseline. Seeing that defensive posture, Shapovalov exploited it with a forehand drop shot into the short court for set point. When Kokkinakis sailed a forehand, Shapovalov snatched a one-set lead after 32 minutes. Shapovalov fired nine winners, tripling Kokkinakis in the first set.

The Australian Open doubles champion tried to hold his ground on the baseline, but the depth of Shapovalov's drives served as a battering ram. Hitting off his back foot, Kokkinakis sailed a forehand as Shapovalov scored another early break for a 2-1 second-set lead.

The world No. 18 stared down break points in the fourth game. Shapovalov slid an ace off the sideline to erase a second break point and torched a forehand winner off the opposite sideline to save a third break point. Shapovalov stood strong throughout a tense 13-minute hold to back up the break for 3-1.  

Kokkinakis double-faulted away the break and a 5-2 lead to the Canadian. Shapovalov stumbled for the first time as he clanked a double-fault to give the break back.  




On his second shot to serve it out, Shapovalov sealed the 90-minute victory on his second match point.

"Just getting the win, never easy, obviously two tough losses," Shapovalov said. "I felt like I was playing great tennis just wasn't able to get over the final hurdle. So today, going in, definitely not easy but very happy with my performance.

"Obviously, Thanasi is a great player, he's a super-tough competitor so really happy that I got the win."


 

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