Photo : Martin Sidorjak
Getting back to the Davis Cup Knockout Stage will not be easy for Team Canada presented by Sobeys.
Before they even begin to think about Malaga, they need to get through Group A this week in Bologna, Italy.
The three countries Canada will play this week are all familiar, as the Canadians have faced each of them twice minimum with at least one meeting coming in the last seven years.
Canada boasts a team that knows how to win, but they will have to be at their best to keep their hopes of a title defence alive.
Meet the teams standing between Canada and a spot in the knockout stage.
- Date: Wednesday, Sep. 13
- Head-to-Head: Canada leads 3-0
- Last Meeting: 2022 Davis Cup Finals Semifinals (Malaga, Spain), Canada won 2-1
The host nation is one of the deepest teams not just in Group A, but in the entire Davis Cup competition. They are going to need to rely on that depth if they are to get revenge on Canada for their semifinal defeat last November in Malaga.
This tie could look similar to that semifinal clash, with four of the five Canadians returning and the Italians boasting the same top two.
With two of their highest-profile players out, world No. 7 Jannik Sinner and former Wimbledon runner-up Matteo Berrettini, the Italians will once again be relying on the Lorenzos, Musetti and Sonego, as they did in Malaga. Both are Top 40 players and are joined by another member of the Top 50, Matteo Arnaldi, who is participating in his first Davis Cup tie after reaching the last sixteen at the US Open.
Italy also has two Top 50 doubles players in the form of No. 42 Andrea Vavassori and No. 43 Simone Bolelli.
Despite a richer history in the sport as a whole, Italy has never defeated Canada at the Davis Cup. All three meetings between the two nations have come in the last decade with the Canadians winning each time, all on indoor hard courts. However, this will be the first time the Italians are playing at home.
- Date: Thursday, Sep. 14
- Head-to-Head: Sweden leads 2-0
- Last Meeting: 2021 Davis Cup Finals Group Stage (Madrid, Spain), Sweden won 3-0
On paper, Sweden is the lowest-ranked team in the group with only one singles player in the Top 200. Canada’s top two singles players are both higher-ranked than Sweden’s No. 1.
Elias Ymer is the top Swede in singles, coming in at No. 175. He is joined by No. 334 Leo Borg, son of the great Bjorn Borg, who is making his debut. Funnily enough, Borg won his first ATP Tour match earlier this year again none other than his teammate Ymer.
The other three members of Team Sweden, Karl Friberg, Filip Bergevi, and Andre Goransson, have never played a singles match on the ATP Tour. Friberg and Bergevi have played a combined eight doubles matches (1-7 record) on the main tour.
Goransson is the highest-ranked doubles player on the team at No. 71.
The first Davis Cup meeting between these two countries was one of the most significant moments in the history of Canadian tennis when a 19-year-old Daniel Nestor made his debut and not only won his first ever Davis Cup match, he upset World No. 1 Stefan Edberg in five sets. However, Sweden went on to win the tie.
Only three players from the 2021 teams that met in Madrid are returning in Bologna. Vasek Pospisil was the Canadian No. 1 on a short-handed squad that year which Sweden swept. Only Ymer and Andre Goransson are back for the Swedes, both of whom won matches in that tie.
- Date: Saturday, Sep. 16
- Head-to-Head: Canada leads 5-4
- Last Meeting: 2016 Davis Cup World Group Play-Offs (Halifax, NS), Canada won 5-0
Chile’s secret weapon may be that they boast the best player of the four teams in terms of 2023 performance.
While Musetti is the highest-ranked player in Bologna, Nicolas Jarry has had the best season of anyone playing in Group A, going 29-14 with two titles this season. He is the only player on any of the four teams to have won a singles title this year. He also had a career-best performance at all four Grand Slams.
Joining him is Christian Garin, who despite being ranked just outside the Top 100, is still a threat having reached the Wimbledon quarter-finals last year and has wins over Daniil Medvedev and Casper Ruud in the last two years.
One member of the Chilean team, Alejandro Tabilo, will be competing against his country of birth for the first time, as he was born in Toronto.
Rounding out the team are No. 114 Marcelo Tomas Barrios Vera and veteran Gonzalo Lama. Four of Chile’s players have higher singles rankings than Canada’s No. 2 Gabriel Diallo (No. 158).
The history between these two countries does not tell much because they have not met since the Davis Cup was re-organized and they have never played at a neutral site. All nine previous meetings were played in either Canada or Chile and the host nation won every time.
That being said, four of Canada’s five (home) wins were on indoor hard courts, where this week’s tie will be played. All four of Chile’s wins were on clay.
The two teams have a lot of familiar faces from their last meeting in 2016, which Canada swept. Denis Shapovalov and Pospisil both participated in that tie, as did Frank Dancevic, the current Canadian captain, who made his final Davis Cup appearance as a player. Three of the five members of the Chilean team in Bologna this week were part of that team in Halifax: Garin, Jarry, and Lama.
The top two teams in the group will advance to the knockout stage, which will take place Nov. 21 to 26 in Malaga, Spain.