Photo : Martin Sidorjak
It took 109 years, but at long last Canada is on top of the world.
For the first time in history, Team Canada presented by Sobeys claimed the Davis Cup title on Sunday, sweeping Australia in the final with two straight-set wins courtesy of Denis Shapovalov and Félix Auger-Aliassime.
Canada clinched the title in their third Davis Cup final, having lost in their debut in 1913 and then in the first edition of the revamped Finals in 2019.
After two dramatic comeback wins in the quarter and semifinals, the final was relatively straight forward, with Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime both defeating their Australian opponents to seal the win after just two matches.
Auger-Aliassime scored the clinching point, defeating Alex de Minaur in straight sets 6-3, 6-4. The Canadian No. 1 did not have his serve broken in four matches at the finals and won eight consecutive matches in singles and doubles combined dating back to the group stage in Valencia two months ago.
Looking to seal the win for Canada, Auger-Aliassime overcame a ferocious fight from de Minaur, who pressed the Canadian hard but was never able to break serve in the match.
De Minaur gave Auger-Aliassime little margin, committing just four unforced errors. But the Canadian managed to win 71 per cent of his service points and saved all eight break points he faced.
Auger-Aliassime was under pressure early, falling behind 15-40 in his opening service game. But despite struggling early with his first serve, he was able to save both with some aggressive hitting.
Another break point came and went for de Minaur in his next return game before Auger-Aliassime turned the tables. He missed his first break point in the fourth game, but at 4-3 he was able to break through and set himself up to serve out the opening set.
Again, the Canadian had to save break points in his first service game of the second set but managed to escape another 15-40 hole.
Just like the first set, he used a big hold to flip the momentum. A game after saving break points, he converted his own to seize the initiative in the deciding set.
De Minaur refused to go away and had a golden opportunity to get back in the set when he led love-40 in the sixth game, but some gutsy hitting from the Canadian erased all three break points to maintain the lead.
With a strong returner like de Minaur, closing out the match was never going to be easy. The Aussie took a love-30 lead as Auger-Aliassime served for the match, but at no point this week did Auger-Aliassime show any signs of feeling the pressure. He reeled off four straight points to clinch Canada’s victory.
Auger-Aliassime’s win was made possible by another straight-set win earlier in the day by Denis Shapovalov, who scored the first point for Canada by defeating Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Having lost consecutive three-set heartbreakers in his first two singles matches, Shapovalov quickly took control of his match with Thanasi Kokkinakis and never let his Aussie opponent back into it, putting Canada on the brink of victory with a 6-2, 6-4 win.
It was a rock solid performance from the Canadian, who hit 23 winners and converted four of seven break points. He gave Kokkinakis little opportunity to get back in the match, saving three of four break points on his own serve.
Just like his singles match in the semifinals, Shapovalov came out of the gate quickly, breaking in his opponent’s opening service game. This time though, he kept his foot on the gas, taking advantage of some passive play from Kokkinakis to make it a double break and a 4-0 lead.
Kokkinakis had no answer for the Canadian’s powerful hitting in the opening set and while he managed to get his serve going, Shapovalov gave his opponent no chances on return to get back in the set.
Shapovalov kept his foot on the gas early in the second set, forcing error off the racket of Kokkinakis to break for a 2-1 lead.
For the first time in the match, the Canadian found himself under pressure on serve as he tried to consolidate the break. Shapovalov faced three break points in the fourth game, but conjured up a pair of aces and a forehand winner.
Kokkinakis gifted Shapovalov a chance to serve out the match when he double-faulted on break point at 2-4. Trying to serve out the match, the Canadian finally cracked as he gave one of the breaks back with a few errors. But when he stepped up to serve it out the second time at 5-4, he made no mistake.
It is the second year in a row that a country swept the major international team competitions. Canada, led by Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov, also won the ATP Cup to start the season. Auger-Aliassime went 3-0 in team competition, adding a victory with Team World at the Laver Cup.