Photo : Mathieu Belanger
Team Canada presented by Sobeys is just three ties away from winning its second consecutive Davis Cup title, starting with Finland on Tuesday.
Though that doesn’t seem like much, each country along the way will do its best to dethrone the reigning champions and take the top honours for itself.
Canada will only have one guaranteed tie this week, that being Finland in the quarter-finals. At this stage, no team can be underestimated, and the Canadian players will have to be in top form to ensure consistent victories.
Before the matches begin, it’s the ideal team to learn about Canada’s opposition.
- Date: Tuesday, Nov. 21
- Head-to-Head: 1-0
- Last Meeting: 1966 Davis Cup Europe First Round, Canada won 4-1
Team Canada’s first and only guaranteed tie will come against Finland. It’s been nearly 60 years since the two countries last faced each other and when that happened, Canada walked away with the victory.
Looking to repeat history, Canada will have to best a team led by world No.71 Emil Ruusuvuori. Though it’s been four years since Ruusuvuori won a title — he won six in 2019 on the ATP Challenger and ITF circuits — he won all his matches at the group stage in September.
Joining Ruusuvuori is Otto Virtanen, a 22-year-old who’s coming off two Challenger titles in 2023. He also won two of his matches at the group stage, showing that he’s more than capable of handling the toughest moments.
Despite a low ranking, Patrick Kaukovalta has seen some success in 2023, winning an ITF event in Budapest earlier this year. His sole match of the group stage came with Harri Heliovaara at his side which ended in a doubles victory against the United States.
Heliovaara, ranked No. 29 in the world in doubles, will look to bounce back from a middling group stage where he went 2-2. He won a doubles title in Adelaide this year.
Finally, Patrik Niklas-Salminen is Finland’s other doubles-focused player. He lost both his doubles matches in the group stage with Heliovaara.
Should Canada advance into the semifinals, they’ll face off against either Australia or Czechia.
- Potential Date: Friday, Nov. 24
- Head-to-Head: 2-9
- Last Meeting: 2022 Davis Cup Finals, Canada won 2-0
A potential rematch of the 2022 Davis Cup finals, where Canada won 2-0, looms in semis should the defending champions meet Australia. Alex de Minaur leads the team and is currently ranked No. 12 in the world. He is one of four Top 100 players on the Australian team alongside Max Purcell, Jordan Thompson, and Thanasi Kokkinakis.
Kokkinakis and de Minaur faced off against Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime in the 2022 final respectively but could not muster even a set win in those matches.
- Potential Date: Friday, Nov. 24
- Head-to-Head: First meeting
If Czechia is the final four opponent, Canada will have to fend off No. 31 overall Jiri Lehecka, Tomas Machac, Jakub Mensik, and Adam Pavlasek.
This year, Machack won two Challenger titles in singles, while Pavlasek has three of his own in doubles. Lehecka and Mensik, however, last won titles of their own in 2022. Given the entire team’s relative success in the last two years, none of the players should be considered pushovers.
At the Australian Open, Lehecka defeated Auger-Aliassime in the fourth round. Should the two face off against each other in the semifinals, the Canadian will keep his eyes open in order to even the tides.
If Canada reaches its third final in four editions of the Davis Cup, they would meet one of the following four countries.
Tallon Griekspoor is the Netherlands’ top-ranked player, coming in at No. 23 in singles. Should they have to depend on a doubles match to seal their victories, the team will turn to Wesley Koolhof and Jean-Julien Rojer to make quick work of their doubles matchup given that the duo is ranked No. 5 and No. 18 respectively.
If Italy has 2023 OBN winner Jannik Sinner leading the charge, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with. Tack on Lorenzo Musetti, Matteo Arnaldi, Lorenzo Sonego, and Simone Bolelli and you have one of the most intimidating lineups of the tournament.
However, Gabriel Diallo took down Musetti in the group stage back in September as part of a Canadian sweep.
During Canada’s 2022 title run, Serbia managed to defeat them in the group stage in what was essentially a dead tie. The last time the two countries faced each other prior to that was in the 2013 semifinals, when Novak Djokovic took down both Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic.
10 years later, Djokovic is still just as elite and leads the Serbian squad.
Britain’s highest-ranked player, Cameron Norrie, last played Auger-Aliassime at the Canadian Open in 2022, a fifth win in six meetings for the Montrealer. Norrie has as many titles as the Canadian this year.
The rest of the team includes Andy Murray and Jack Draper, who are both ranked in the Top 100 in singles, as well as Neal Skupski, the No. 3 doubles player in the world, and Joe Salisbury, ranked No. 12.