Photo : Martin Sidorjak
From the brink of defeat to the cusp of victory.
Team Canada presented by Sobeys is a win away from their first title at the Davis Cup after yet another comeback win in the semifinals against Italy.
Félix Auger-Aliassime was the hero on Saturday, winning his singles match in straight sets before clinching the tie with a straight-sets win in the doubles alongside Vasek Pospisil to give the Canadians a 2-1 win.
For the fifth time in a row, a Canada’s Davis Cup tie came down to the doubles and for the fourth time, they were able to grit out the win. Three of those four wins were by Auger-Aliassime and Pospisil.
Standing between Canada and their first title is Australia. The Canadians have reached two previous finals, most recently in 2019 when they lost to Spain. They also reached the final in their debut in 1913 when they lost to the United States.
Looking to send Canada into the final, Auger-Aliassime and Pospisil had to dig deep, overcoming early breaks in both sets before playing their best tennis at the business end of each set to beat Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini 7-6(2), 7-5.
There was a sense of déjà-vu when the Canadians were broken early in the opening set, but unlike the quarter-finals, they quickly turned it around, with Auger-Aliassime teeing off on a Berrettini serve to level the set at 3-all.
Another tiebreak, the third of the day, was needed to decide the opener. The Canadians struck quickly, going ahead 2-0 when Berrettini netted a forehand, and never looked back. They did not drop a point on serve and added another minibreak before Auger-Aliassime closed it out with an ace.
The Italians broke early for a 2-0 lead in the second set, but they handed the break right back when Fognini double faulted twice to let the Canadians back on serve.
As the set went along, control began to shift to the Canadians. After failing to take advantage of a love-30 lead at 4-4, the Canadians got a love-40 opening at 5-5 and on the third break points, both Italians misread an Auger-Aliassime return which dropped in for a winner and the break.
Serving for the match, Auger-Aliassime ran into trouble for the first time all day, going down 15-40. But the Canadian made one last push, firing off three straight unreturned serves to set up match point, which they convert to seal their spot in the final.
Prior to sealing the victory in the doubles, Auger-Aliassime was asked to keep Team Canada alive in the singles after Denis Shapovalov lost the opening singles match. The Canadian No. 1 looked unphased by the pressure, turning in an efficient performance to level the tie with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Musetti.
With the nation on his back, Auger-Aliassime delivered a classic performance, firing 12 aces and dropping just three points on his first serve. He never faced a break point and converted two of his four chances.
It was a fairly typical first set for Auger-Aliassime. The Canadian was automatic on serve, dropping just eight points and never giving Musetti a look at a break.
When the opportunity to break arrived, Auger-Aliassime took advantage, opening up a love-40 lead in the sixth game and getting the break when the Italian sent a forehand long. That was the Canadian’s only break chance in the first set, but was the only one he needed.
Auger-Aliassime was opportunistic again in the second set. He continued cruising on serve and awaited an opening on the Musetti serve.
At 4-4, the Canadian finally found himself at break point and took advance to set himself up to serve out the match. After initially falling behind love-30, he reeled off four straight points to wrap up the win.
Just like the tie with Germany, Denis Shapovalov suffered a heartbreak in the opening match of the day, losing to the other Lorenzo, Lorenzo Sonego, in a three-set epic.
There was very little to decide between the two men, who duked it out for three hours and 16 minutes. In the end, it was Sonego who played the bigger points better, giving his country the lead with a 7-6(4), 6-7(5), 6-4 win.
Break point conversion will haunt Shapovalov after this match. He won his first but then failed to take advantage of the next 12, ultimately finishing just 1-for-13, while Sonego converted two of five. In the end, the Canadian actually won three more points in defeat.
Shapovalov got off to a perfect start, breaking to love and holding to love as he won the first nine points of the match. But Sonego quickly turned things around, breaking back to level at 2-2.
Sonego nearly made it four games in a row when he had two break points at 3-2, but the Canadian found winners on both. He then had two chances of his own to break in the following game, but Sonego managed to bash his way out of the jam.
As the set went along, Shapovalov looked to be the more comfortable player, holding easily and applying pressure on return, but he was unable to find a break. That came back to bite him in the tiebreak when the Italian raced ahead 5-1 which ultimately proved an insurmountable lead.
Missed opportunities very nearly cost Shapovalov again in the second set. When Sonego served to stay in it at 4-5, the Canadian led love-40 and ultimately held five set points in the game, but some bold play from the Italian managed to erase all five.
The second tiebreak looked to follow a similar script to the first, this time with Sonego jumping out to a 5-2 lead. This time, Shapovalov won both his service points to close the gap and as the Italian served to set up a match point, he overhit a floated forehand volley from the midcourt to let Shapovalov back in the breaker.
Sonego then gifted a sixth set point to Shapovalov with a double fault, this time on his own serve, and the Canadian made no mistake, converting to send the match to a deciding set.
Both men had chances to break throughout the third set, with Shapovalov missing a pair of break points in the opening game and three more in the seventh.
Ultimately, the Canadian blinked at the worst possible moment. Serving to stay in the match at 4-5, 30-all, he hit back-to-back double faults to hand the first point to the Italians.
Australia also rallied having lost the opening match of their semifinal tie against Croatia. Canada and Australia have met 10 times in Davis Cup, with the Aussies winning nine of those matchups.
However, the lone Canadian win came in their most recent meeting at the 2019 Davis Cup Finals. Australia’s most recent win over Canada came in 1964.