Everything was supposed to be going against Team Canada presented by Sobeys heading into the first Davis Cup tie of their title defence.

Facing the host Italians in Bologna, one of the deepest teams in the competition, without Felix Auger-Aliassime and with Denis Shapovalov on the bench. Italy’s third-ranked singles player was ranked over 100 spots higher than the top Canadian on the order of play. And of course, they were in Bologna, facing not just the players on court but a highly partisan Italian crowd.

Everything was supposed to be going against Team Canada.

Supposed to be.

Those expectations were not lost even on the Canadian team.

“To be honest, I wasn’t expecting us to win 3-0,” admitted Captain Frank Dancevic.

“To win 3-0, I think was a surprise for everyone,” said Alexis Galarneau, who won two of Canada’s three points in the tie.

But as Dancevic said in the team’s pre-event press conference, “We always put up a great fight against any team we’re playing and we always put ourselves in the position to win matches and to win ties no matter what the score is,” and that’s exactly what the Canadians did on Wednesday.

The defending champions won their first tie since claiming the title last November courtesy of two career-best wins for Galarneau and Gabriel Diallo and yet another clutch doubles performance from Vasek Pospisil.

Read also: Team Canada Happy to Be Back Ahead of Davis Cup Title Defence

Both Galarneau and Diallo came in without a win in Davis Cup in their careers. Both were playing opponents ranked over 100 spots above them. It did not matter.

“It was really cool to watch from the side of the court,” said Pospisil. “I’ve known these guys for a couple of years, they were with us last year. It funny how only 12 months ago they were watching from the sidelines pretty much every match, cheering us on like crazy and then today the role was reversed and they got two incredible wins. Very important wins for the team. It was awesome to see and I’m really proud of them.”

Vasek Pospisil (back to camera) puts his arm around Alexis Galarneau.
Photo : Martin Sidorjak

More than 160 ranking places separated Galarneau and his opponent, Lorenzo Sonego, and at times in the opening set it looked like the Canadian was hanging on by a thread. And yet he always found ways to get the job done, whether it was holding from love-40 down, rallying from a break down, or saving set points.

But once he stole the first set and grabbed an early break in the second, there was no stopping the Laval-native.

Read also: Meet Team Canada

Despite looking completely at ease as he moved towards the finish line, Galarneau admitted there were nerves but it was the presence of his teammates that helped calm him.

“My teammates helped me a ton. When I think back on those opportunities, on those moments, they were just in the moment, enjoying the moment. And that type of energy just helped me drive and handle that last game.”

The 24-year-old’s performance may have been critical not just to score the point, but to help Diallo get ready for the second singles match, where he was seeking his first Top 20 win.

“It set the bar also really high for me to try and play some of my best tennis because obviously he played a great match, so solid through and through,” said Diallo. “He dealt with so much adversity in his match. I was in the locker room, I was watching his match and it was so inspiring to watch. I got goosebumps and I was really looking forward to hop on the court.”

If Galarneau set the bar high, Diallo cleared it with ease. It was hard to believe that 140 spots separated him and Musetti in the rankings as the Canadian played nearly untouchable tennis in the straight-set win.

“I’m really happy with the way I served, the way I played behind my serve as well. I managed to get two crucial breaks and that was all I needed today to get the job done,” said Diallo.

According to the Davis Cup, Galarneau and Diallo’s wins constituted the largest upset in terms of rankings in the history of the tournament.

Gabriel Diallo celebrates his Davis Cup win.
Photo : Martin Sidorjak

It was not just Top 40 opponents that Galarneau, Diallo, and Pospisil had to deal with. It was the raucous Italian crowd, including their drum section. The crowd exploded every time the Italian team won a point, but were almost dead silent when Canada scored a blow.

But that did little to rattle the Canadians.

“It was an amazing atmosphere, I just had a lot of fun out there,” said Galarneau. “The crowd was great even though they weren’t for me. I still appreciate them coming out and the passion they showed.”

Read also: Meet Canada’s Opposition in Group A – Italy, Sweden, and Chile

“I enjoyed it a lot, I grew up wanting to play these type of matches these type of atmospheres.”

Interestingly, both Galarneau and Diallo pointed to a common experience they share but most professionals do not, having played in college, as helping them handle the hostile crowd.

I think going to college, playing five years of college tennis, helped me with that atmosphere,” explained Galarneau, a North Carolina State alumni.

“It’s like really noisy, but in college it’s much more rowdy,” said Diallo, a former Kentucky Wildcat. “There’s like 500 or 1,000 people but they’re all in your face, they talk to you, they look up where you’re from, your background, and start telling you about your family. I think it’s tougher to deal with that than here.”

In comparison to those NCAA atmospheres, the Italians were a piece of cake.

“Of course they’re supporting the Italians but they’re quite respectful,” said Diallo. “They were cheering good shots that Alexis and I were hitting. And at the end of both matches they looked like they were happy to see two high-level matches.”

Canada will likely not have to worry about as one-sided a crowd in their next tie on Wednesday against Sweden. After their win on Wednesday, Canada sits second in Group A and could take a stranglehold on a spot in the knockout stage with a win over the last-place Swedes. The tie begins at 3 pm local, 9 am EDT.