Both matches on Friday’s opening day of the Canada – Great Britain Davis Cup World Group at the Arena at TD Place in Ottawa were one-sided affairs. In the first singles, British No. 1 Daniel Evans defeated No. 2 Canadian Denis Shapovalov 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 and that was followed by Canada’s No. 1 Vasek Pospisil’s victory over No. 2 Briton Kyle Edmund 6-4, 6-1, 7-6(3).

While the dramatic quotient of the matches wasn’t the most compelling, the results created the desired scenario for the weekend with the best-of-five match tie guaranteed to go into Sunday with everything still in play. The competitive balance will be tipped whichever way things turn out in Saturday’s doubles when Canadians Daniel Nestor and Pospisil face the British pairing of Dominic Inglot and Jamie Murray.

There were definite similarities in both singles matches on Friday with the losing players – Shapovalov (0-2) and Edmund (0-3) failing to convert a single break point.

From the home side point of view, Pospisil’s win was welcome after Evans proved simply too solid and opportunistic for Shapovalov. The 17-year-old from Richmond Hill came out edgy in his first ever ‘live’ match in Davis Cup.

He lost his serve in the first game of the match and he would later say about the beginning, “it was quite an atmosphere and I got a little bit tight at the start. I even had trouble tossing the ball up for my serve. He’s got so much more Davis Cup experience and he’s played in bigger stadiums.”

The numbers did not flatter Shapovalov, who only made 47 per cent of his first serves to 65 per cent for Evans. “My game is aggressive and I saw the (stats) sheet and I’m gonna miss,” he said. “At the end of the day, I had my chances, he had his chances. He played better when he had chances. Sunday (reverse singles vs Edmund) is going to be the same. I’m gonna have chances and he’s gonna have chances. It’s just going to be up to who plays bigger on those points and makes the right decisions and the right shots.”

Denis Shapovalov on February 3, 2017 (Photo: Kyle Clapham).

There were certainly signs of Shapovalov’s talent – a touch half volley here and a couple on mammoth single-handed backhand cross-court blasts there – but he couldn’t match the consistency of Evans who’s at a career high ranking of No. 45 after reaching the ATP final in Sydney last month and then going to the fourth round of the Australian Open, including a win over No. 7 seed Marin Cilic in the second round.

“He’s played a lot more matches than me already this season,” Shapovalov said about Evans to whom he lost 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4 in the semifinals of the National Bank Challenger event last March. “He’s obviously improved his game. He’s a lot faster, he hits a lot bigger and he comes in more. But it’s more just the confidence alone and the amount of matches he’s had.”

Vasek Pospisil on February 3, 2017 (Photo: Bo Mon Kwan).

Pospisil, who has been struggling for the better of a year to find the form that took him to a career high ranking of No. 25 in 2014 and to the quarter-finals of Wimbledon in 2015, was emotional in his on-court interview following his win over the No. 47-ranked Edmund.

“It means a lot to me,” he said, “this team is incredible – such a fun time to be playing with these guys. I’m playing for them and obviously all you guys (the crowd) and everybody in Canada. We’ve built an incredible bond over these last four or five years, so it’s pretty special. For me personally it was a great match, after a bit of a shaky start, to play this well. I’m very proud to be out here playing for you guys and representing the country.”

Vasek Pospisil receives treatment on February 3, 207 (Photo: Bo Mon Kwan).

There was a scary moment for the Canadian side when Pospisil took a medical time-out after holding serve to lead 3-2 in the opening set.

“It was knee pain, my left knee,” he said. “I had it at the beginning of the week a little bit. I did a lot of volume training. I had to take off pretty much a half day earlier this week. It felt better but it just needed some treatment. It was causing me not to serve very well in the first set. I was having pain and then some of the pain-killers kicked in and the treatment and everything and then I felt better.”

He wasn’t exactly sure what the problem is but it’s related to the patellar tendon and sounds like it could be tendinitis. He was confident he will be fine for Saturday’s doubles and Sunday’s reverse singles when he’s slated to play British No. 1 Evans.

On Friday, he had some tough service holds early in the match but after he broke serve in the final game to win the first set, he played better and better. Edmund’s loopy forehand was very erratic, frequently exposed by deep drives and service returns by Pospisil who served well in the second and third sets, ending with a total of 19 aces to seven for the Brit.

“I’ve been struggling of late to get some momentum in matches and confidence,” Pospisil said. “But I’ve been trying to stay patient and I knew it was going to click at some point and hopefully this is a bit of a turning point for me and Davis Cup is a good platform to do that and get some confidence and momentum because I do enjoy playing in front of my home crowd and playing for team and country. Whether it’s that little bit of adrenaline I need to get me out of a slump, I don’t know, I’m definitely very thrilled with the way I played but not surprised with my level in the second and third sets.”

Captain Martin Laurendeau was not unhappy with the 1-1 scoreline after the opening day, especially considering both British players were ranked in the top-50 and both Canadians well outside the top 100. “One-all, I thought we could at least win one today,” he said. “This court plays well for us and it’s played well in the past. It really suits Vasek. It kind of forces him to play a certain way and it showcases his strengths tremendously. I had full confidence in Vasek going in because the set up is perfect for him – Davis Cup and the crowd and the match-up also.

“For Denis, I think it was a long shot for sure. Not so much game-styles but more the fact that Daniel has been playing so well lately and it showed today. He was very confident on the big points and the kid rode a long way with him. But ultimately Daniel played the big points well and that comes from all the confidence he gained Down Under.”

Pospisil proud to partner Nestor

Daniel Nestor (left) and Vasek Pospisil at the Davis Cup draw on February 2, 2017 (Photo: Kyle Clapham).

Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil share a long history, including playing two Olympic Games together, Grand Slam tournaments together as well as Davis Cup.

On Saturday when they join forces again to play Dominic Inglot and Jamie Murray of Great Britain, Pospisil will be feeling the weight of the occasion and the significance of teaming up with his 44-year-old partner as he plays in his 50th Davis Cup tie.

“It’s unbelievable what Daniel has accomplished,” Pospisil said after his singles on Friday. “To have done what he’s done in his career says a lot about his character too. Fifty ties is impressive, especially if you think about all the years when tennis in Canada wasn’t as popular as it is now. Now it’s fine, good for the players (in the Davis Cup World Group). But with Daniel, he was always there when they were playing in South America in places like Peru when Davis Cup wasn’t televised. That says a lot about him and it’s a pleasure for me to still be playing with him. I’m proud and happy that I can be with him on court tomorrow for his 50th tie. I hope we can win, but it’s never completely under our control so we’ll see.”

Louis Cayer: Both sides now

The British team will have a real Canadian insider on their side when Dominic Inglot and Jamie Murray take on Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil beginning at 1 p.m. on Saturday.

A Montrealer, Cayer (above on right with Inglot and captain Leon Smith) was the Canadian Davis Cup captain from 1994 until 2000 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame of Canadian Tennis in 2013.

He is now with the (British) Lawn Tennis Association (LTA) and is arguably the pre-eminent doubles coach in tennis.

Cayer also worked with Nestor and Sébastien Lareau when they won the doubles gold medal at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.

On Wednesday, when asked about the 44-year-old Nestor who has done it all in doubles, Murray said, “he’s someone I looked up to in my career – obviously working with Louis for a long time and him coming to work with the LTA, never goes a day without him talking about Daniel. So we hear a lot about him.”

Both Murray, one match in Rotterdam, and Inglot, seven matches including winning the title in Nottingham, played with Nestor last year.

Looking ahead to Saturday’s doubles against Nestor and Pospisil, current No. 8-ranked Murray said, “we’ve seen both guys play a lot so I don’t think there’ll be too many secrets.”

Asked about Cayer’s influence on his career, the 30-year-old Murray responded, “massive. I probably owe all the success in my career to Louis.”

Ranked No. 1 in doubles (April, 2016) and winner of the Australian and US Opens in 2016 with Bruno Soares of Brazil, Murray continued, “we’ve worked together since 2006, I think. We’re fortunate that he fell in love with (and married) an English lady and decided to come and live in London.

“It’s been great for me, and great for the other doubles guys. We’re always learning from him. There’s so much knowledge in that head of his. It’s amazing. We’re so fortunate to have him in our team and working for the LTA. I hope to be able to spend a lot of time with him for the rest of my career.”

Since an opening round loss playing with Inglot against Americans Bob and Mike Bryan in 2015 in Glasgow, Murray has won six Davis Cup doubles in a row – all except last July in Serbia (Inglot) with his brother Andy.

As for Cayer, he has shown he still has bona fides as a Canadian by having gone ice skating on Ottawa’s famous Rideau Canal during this trip.

Ottawa postcard

The centennial flame was first introduced near the Queens Gates (main entrance) to Parliament Hill on January 1, 1967, as Canada celebrated the 100th anniversary of Confederation.

It was supposed to be temporary but has been kept on by popular demand. In the picture here you can see Canadian Davis Cup team member Adil Shamasdin on the far left in his Team Canada outfit.