Photo: Martin Sidorjak
Playing in their second Davis Cup Qualifier tie, the Canadian team presented by Sobeys is bidding for a third consecutive spot in the Davis Cup Finals. Canada finished as runners-up in 2019, automatically qualifying for the 2020-21 Finals. Standing in their way of another championship stage appearance, an away tie in The Hague, Netherlands, against the strong and steady Dutch team.
Team Canada has met the Netherlands on four previous occasions and currently leads the head-to-head 3-1. The last time they met in 2018, Milos Raonic and Denis Shapovalov were able to secure the win for the Maple Leaf in Toronto. This week, Team Canada will try to replicate that result – but will be without their top players and the home-court advantage.
First up for Team Canada was Alexis Galarneau of Laval, Quebec. The world No. 332 turned 23 years old yesterday and got the nod from Frank Dancevic to start in his first-ever Davis Cup match.
The Davis Cup rookie had a tough task ahead of him as he faced the red-hot Botic van de Zandschulp. In 2021, van de Zandschulp started the year as No. 156 in the rankings, and this past Monday, he’s penetrated the Top 50 and reached a career-high ranking of No. 48.
Galarneau put up a terrific fight against the top-50 player, but ultimately dropped the back-and-forth contest 7-5, 7-6(9).
In the opening set, the young Canadian came out strong and showed everyone that he’s very capable of playing against higher-ranked opponents. He scored the first break advantage, had the most break point opportunities, and played the cleaner set, however, the powerful van de Zandschulp managed to take it by a score of 7-5. The big difference in the first set was the break points converted. Galarneau was 2/7 while his opponent was a perfect 3/3.
Both players upped their game in the second set. It seemed that every time a player was starting to pull away, the other would strike back almost immediately. Fittingly, the tight set needed a tiebreak, but not without drama, as van de Zandschulp fended off three set points in the 12th game.
In the tiebreak, Galarneau was able to get the first mini-break, but a net cord going van de Zandschulp’s way tied it up. The heavy-hitting Dutch then built up a 5-2 lead, but the gritty Canadian fought his way back and eventually had another set point. Unfortunately for Team Canada, van de Zandschulp kept finding his first serve when he needed it most, turned the set point aside, and sealed the match on the 20th point in the tiebreak.
Despite the loss, Alexis Galarneau put on a solid performance in his Davis Cup debut.
Griekspoor edges Diez to give the Netherlands a 2-0 lead
The second match of the day was between Toronto’s Steven Diez and world No. 54 Tallon Griekspoor. Diez, who is looking for his first Davis Cup win, is playing in his third tie and holds a record of 0-2 in his previous two appearances. A victory against Griekspoor to get Canada on the board would be a terrific way to get win number one.
In the early going of the opening set, both players were able to cruise through their service games. Despite struggling to keep first serves in play, Diez and Griekspoor capitalized when they did – the Canadian winning 15/21 of first-serve points while his opponent was a perfect 12/12.
The world No. 54 turned it up a notch in the eighth game and managed to give himself four break point opportunities. They were all fended off by the tenacious Diez, but the Canadian paid the price in the 10th game on Griekspoor’s fifth break point chance, which was also a set point. Griekspoor took the first set by a score of 6-4.
Instead of riding that momentum into the next set, Griekspoor had a very poor start to the second set. Diez took advantage of his opponent’s sluggish beginning and scored the first break of the set. Griekspoor eventually broke back in the sixth game, which the Dutch crowd savoured. The court began to tilt in favor of Griekspoor, and he eventually clinched the match in the 10th game, winning 6-4, 6-4.
Canada will look to avoid the sweep on Saturday, starting with a doubles match between Brayden Schnur/Peter Polansky and Wesley Koolhof/Matwe Middlekoop.