After coming up short in doubles, Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime rack up wins to secure a 3-2 triumph for Canada.
With the teams tied after day one, Canada had to prevail in two of three matches to oust Slovakia and secure a spot in the Davis Cup Finals slated for this November in Madrid. After falling in doubles, Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov delivered masterful performances to give Canada the win.
The final day kicked off with doubles. An hour before the players were expected on court, Slovakia announced that Martin Klizan would take Igor Zelenay’s place alongside Filip Polasek. The teen team of Félix Auger-Aliassime (18 years old) and Denis Shapovalov (19 years old) held their own with an early break that helped them claim the first set but their opponents soon bounced back. In the hotly contested second set, a break for Slovakia as the nation was up 6-5 forced the decisive third set. Klizan and Polasek kept the momentum going all the way to a 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 win that gave Slovakia a 2-1 lead.
In the fourth rubber, the two countries’ highest ranked players went head-to-head. Shapovalov and Klizan were meeting for the second time after facing each other last year in Saint Petersburg. On the red clay in Bratislava, the Canadian got his revenge. He chalked up a 5-2 lead but still needed seven match points to take the first set. Forging ahead, he earned the seventh Davis Cup win of his career (7-6(4), 6-4).
The fifth match would therefore seal the outcome of the tie. Playing in his first Davis Cup, Auger-Aliassime took on World No. 255 Norbert Gombos, who was selected by captain Dominik Hrbaty over Filip Horansky. The 18-year-old stayed in control of the situation and outplayed his opponent in key moments. After 90 minutes, the Canadian got the better of Gombos in two sets (6-3, 6-4).
Canada will now meet up with 17 other nations at the Davis Cup Finals, which will be held in Madrid from November 18 to 24, 2019. The draw will take place on February 14 to assign the 18 teams to 6 groups.
“I think it’s pretty safe to say that the debate on whether I can play on clay is official over. I think with today’s match I proved to everyone that I can play well on clay. The level of tennis today was very high. It was physically tough to play after a doubles match, and I think we were both feeling it on the court. I had a little bit of trouble getting into the match after the break but then the adrenaline kicked in and I felt really fresh. I think I also stayed very sharp mentally. I’m really happy I could win that match for Tennis Canada. We really needed it.”
“I don’t think I could have asked for a better start to this competition. I have been through all the emotions. I’ve been through losses this weekend and then, finally, the best thing that could have happened to me: winning the fifth rubber and giving the winning point to Canada. It’s something special, something I always dreamed of as a kid. And, on top of that, I don’t think I could have asked for a better match. I thought it was great level.”
“This whole weekend was amazing. We went up against such a tough team. We faced so many obstacles: the crowd, the court and their great players. We had to play better tennis and take it to them. We raised our level. We were down 1-2 and then Denis played an unbelievable match to keep us alive. I thought it was Top 10 level. And Félix, playing in his first tie ever, was put in a very tough situation and he handled it so well to give us that last point and bring us to the Final. I’m really proud of these two guys who are just starting their career and who are already representing us so well.”
“It was a super hard, closely fought singles match. We had won the doubles with Filip but it was a long one and I did not have enough time to recover. The conditions were the same for Denis, but he managed to recover better. Moreover, he played just unbelievable tennis, hit great shots in crucial moments.”
“We opted for Gombos in order to counter Félix’s aggression. However, Félix played so well that he did not give us many chances. Nevertheless, I would like to thank to all my players for their effort and attitude, and despite the result, we have nothing to be ashamed of.”
2019 Davis Cup Qualifiers
Canada vs. Slovakia
February 1-2, 2019
NTC Arena, Bratislava
|Friday, February 1||First singles match||Shapovalov d. Horanksy 6-4, 7-5|
|Friday, February 1||Second singles match||Klizan d. Auger-Aliassime 7-5, 6-3|
|Saturday, February 2||Doubles match||Klizan/Polasek d. Shapovalov/Auger-Aliassime 3-6, 7-5, 6-3|
|Saturday, February 2||Third singles match||Shapovalov d. Klizan 7-6(4), 6-4|
|Saturday, February 2||Fourth singles match||Auger-Aliassime d. Gombos 6-3, 6-4|
Photo: Mauricio Paiz