Following a year of historic firsts, 2020 is primed to be an exciting opportunity for Canadian players looking build their legacy – Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov are two of those players, and they’re off to the right start as they led Canada to a 2-0 victory over Greece at the inaugural ATP Cup in Brisbane, Australia.

It was a dream start in a dream draw for 19-year-old Auger-Aliassime, who kicked off his new season against unheralded World No. 487 Michail Pervolarakis of Greece in a mismatch of experience, but nevertheless an excellent chance for Auger-Aliassime to test drive the hard fitness and tennis work done in his six-week off-season.

Ranked at a full 466 places higher than his opponent – but No. 2 to Denis Shapovalov in an all-star Team Canada line-up at the innovative new team competition – Auger-Aliassime showed his greater breadth of experience at the top of the sport, dominating proceedings from all corners of the court with measured but powerful hitting. He stormed off to a 4-0 against Pevolarakis and barely looked back in the first set, producing some world-class shotmaking to break one final time and claim it 6-1 after half an hour of play.

Although the inexperienced Greek – regularly a NCAA college player for the University of Portland – would settle in the second set, Auger-Aliassime wouldn’t relent. Despite missing out on break points early on, a break in the sixth game would be all the Montreal native needed to cruise towards victory and a 1-0 lead for Canada.

With ATP Ranking points from the round-robin team event being decided not only by wins and losses but by opponent ranking as well, Auger-Aliassime picked up up 20 points, but most importantly gave Canada the advantage ahead of a mouthwatering – albeit difficult – tie against reigning ATP Finals champ Stefanos Tsitsipas.

Taking on the No. 6-ranked Greek would be top-ranked Canadian Denis Shapovalov, who himself was fresh off a brilliant end to the 2019 season in which he helped lead Canada to its historic first Davis Cup final. Whereas Auger-Aliassime’s first rubber showcased a chasm in pedigree, the high-profile clash of team No. 1’s couldn’t be tighter.

Both Shapovalov and Tsitsipas have taken the world by storm as #NextGenATP contenders, ready to take up the mantle as the next wave of superstars in the sport – and they played like it in the first set. It was intensely contested from the very first few games, with both players firing themselves up for the major challenge ahead of them to kick off their 2020 campaigns.

It was ultimately Shapovalov, a 2-1 leader in the former junior rivals’ professional head-to-head, who would edge out the set, as he capitalized on a third set point in the tiebreaker with a 207km/h ace to claim it against a frustrated Tsitsipas.

Photo: ATP Tour/ATP Cup

The second set was played at an equal calibre to the first, with the Canadian’s explosive striking going shot-for-shot against the smooth all-court court tennis of the Greek. Saving three break points in a tight and ultimately crucial eleventh game of the set, Shapovalov’s ability to produce his best in the clutch moments (he hit three winners to save each break point) would be the decisive factor on Friday afternoon in Brisbane.

In the tiebreak, an electrifying rally fell the way of the 20 year old from Richmond Hill, helping him recover from an early mini-break down to surge ahead to double match point. Then, Tsitsipas, who had barely put a foot wrong throughout the match, double faulted – and it was over.

The rivals shook hands at the net before Shapovalov met Team Canada at the bench to celebrate the 2-0 victory over Greece, becoming the first-ever victors in the ATP Cup format.

Canada leading the way in 2020? We like the sound of that.