The Canadian boys were practising midday on Wednesday on the red clay centre court at the National Tennis Centre in Bratislava. Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime played an up-tempo set that they called at 5-all before playing a tiebreak.
After that Auger-Aliassime fulfilled some media obligations and Shapovalov took a break. Captain Frank Dancevic hit with Peter Polansky and then, after about 20 minutes, Shapovalov went back out for more hitting with Polansky.
Two days before a Davis Cup tie starts is usually tapering off time but the Canadians were practising hard.
On Thursday, the draw will be made for the Friday/Saturday best-of-five match tie and it probably is hoped, from the Canadian side, that No. 25-ranked Shapovalov will go first against the presumed No. 2 from Slovakia, No. 255 Norbert Gombos, 28.
A win for Canada in the opener would put more pressure on Slovakian No. 1 – No. 38-ranked Martin Klizan – in the subsequent match against No. 106 Auger-Aliassime.
“I think it’s going to be a very, very difficult match-up,” said Louis Borfiga, Tennis Canada’s Vice President of High Performance and Athlete Development about the 2019 qualifying round. “Their No. 1 is a good player who can do good things. He’s a guy who can win tournaments (he has six career titles including the ATP 250 on clay in Kitzbuhel, Austria, last August). And they are playing at home with all the crowd (sold-out 4,500) support. I think it’ll be a very even tie – not easy at all.”
The Canadian players, with the exception of Auger-Aliassime (with coach Fred Fontang above) are most comfortable on hard courts or grass. “It’s the surface we expected,” Borfiga said. “They’ll try to slow it down to the maximum but I don’t think it will bother our players very much. Felix likes playing on clay, so no problem there. And I think, after watching him last year, Denis has made incredible progress on clay. Before it wasn’t his surface, but last year he had good results on clay (semi-final of the Masters 1000 in Madrid and third round in Rome) and he knows how to play on clay now.”
The doubles remains a bit of a mystery – will captain Dominik Hrbaty (above) go with the older duo that has been practising together – No. 66-ranked Igor Zelenay, 36, and No. 148 Filip Polasek, 33? Or will he change it up?
It appears that Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime, who won the US Open junior doubles together in 2015 at 16 and 15 respectively, will be the Canadian tandem.
“As for the doubles, I’ve really got confidence in the two youngsters,” Borfiga said. “They had some super results together. They’ve won Challengers when they were 16. Of course they don’t have the experience of Daniel (Nestor) or Vasek (Pospisil). I really have confidence in the two of them.”
The fact that they might have to play singles after the doubles on Saturday does not concern Borfiga in terms of any fatigue factor. “I think when you play for your country you’re ready for anything,” he said. “No questions asked, you just fight for every point.”
TIP OF THE CAP TO TESSA
We meant to do this yesterday, but we want to give a big thank you to Tessa van der Riet, our fearlessly competent videographer who did a great job shooting and putting together our vlogs (a.k.a. vox pops) during the Australian Open.
Her company is POSITIVEVISION in Melbourne.
One of our favourites from the Aussie Open fortnight – a visit to Federation Square, is here:
It is a bit surprising to hear quite a bit of English spoken in the capital city of Slovakia.
A visit to the old town on Wednesday turned up a lot of tourists – many of them from the USA or Great Britain. Also, on our daily walk to the arena, which is located close to the event hotel, we came across this school and heard many of the children at recess sounding like they were in Plattsburg, N.Y. or Dubuque, Iowa.
Feature Picture (on Tuesday too!) Mauricio Paiz