Photo : @ATPCup
As if there was any doubt, Canada’s golden age of tennis is now in full swing.
For the first time in history, Canada won a professional team tennis competition last week with a dramatic victory in the ATP Cup. And given the age of Canada’s stars, it very well could be the first of many.
It’s already a dream season for Canadian tennis and it’s just the second week of January.
Here’s what you need to know.
In Case You Missed It: Kings of the ATP
When Canada started the ATP Cup by getting swept by the United States and then dropping the opening singles match to Great Britain, it looked like it was to be another team competition disappointment for the Great White North, who were one defeat away from being eliminated from the event.
Instead, Team Canada went on a run for the ages, winning eight of the next 11 matches to beat four tennis powerhouses, Britain, Germany, Russian and Spain, all in a row to claim the ATP Cup, Canada’s first-ever win at a major team competition at the professional level.
Denis Shapovalov and Félix Auger-Aliassime played some of the best tennis of their careers to get their hands on the trophy. Shapovalov, who got off to a slow start while recovering from a COVID-19 infection just before the event, went 3-1 in singles, while Auger-Aliassime was 3-2. Crucially, they teamed up to be 2-1 in doubles, including critical wins over the Brits and in the semi-finals over the Russians.
Both men overcame 1-4 head-to-head disadvantages to stun Germany in a win-and-you’re-in round robin matchup, with Shapovalov beating Jan-Lennard Struff and Auger-Aliassime beating the highest-ranked opponent of his career in world No. 3 Alexander Zverev.
They narrowly escaped in the semi-finals against the defending champions Russia courtesy of a gritty three-set win over Roman Safiullin by Shapovalov and a clutch match-tiebreak doubles win.
In the final, Canada avenged their defeat in their only previous team competition final at the 2019 Davis Cup by sweeping Spain with two straight-set singles victories.
Slam champs clean up
Five other trophies were handed out on the ATP and WTA tours in Australia last week, three of which were won by Grand Slam champions.
Rafael Nadal had another comeback for the ages, competing in his first event since August and winning it without dropping a set, beating first-time finalist Maxime Cressy in Melbourne. Like Shapovalov, Nadal was also coming back from a COVID-19 infection at the end of 2021.
With the win, Nadal became the first man to win at least one title in 19 consecutive years. It’s only the second time in his career that he won his first title in his first event of the season.
Over in Adelaide, women’s world No. 1 Ashleigh Barty reminded everyone why she holds the top spot, emerging victorious from the loaded 500-level draw to win the title, beating Elena Rybakina in the final.
She did it the hard way too, coming back from a set and a break down in her opening match against Coco Gauff before beating back-to-back former major winners Sofia Kenin and Iga Świątek to reach the final.
Canadian Leylah Fernandez was competing in Adelaide and got her season started with a straight-sets win over Ekaterina Alexandrova. In the second round, she was a victim of that stacked draw and was beaten by Świątek in straight sets.
Fernandez also reached the second round of doubles before withdrawing. Gabriela Dabrowski lost her opening doubles match.
Simona Halep was the third former major champion to get her hands on some hardware, winning the Melbourne Summer Set 1. She beat Veronika Kudermetova, who had received a free pass in the semi-finals when Naomi Osaka pulled out, in the final.
In the other Melbourne event, Amanda Anisimova won her second career title. The final trophy in the week was won by Gael Monfils, who did not drop a set on his way to a win in Adelaide, his 11th career title and first since February 2020.
What to Watch: Final Australian Open Prep
Dabrowski is the lone Canadian in action this week on the top tour, competing in doubles at the Sydney Tennis Classic with Giuliana Olmos. She fell in the final round of singles qualifying.
Despite withdrawals from Barty and Świątek and it being the week before a major, the field in Sydney is still very strong and includes five of the world’s Top 10: Barbora Krejcikova, Garbine Muguruza, Anett Kontaveit, Paula Badosa and Ons Jabeur.
Also lurking in the draw are four other major champions: Petra Kvitova, Jelena Ostapenko, Sofia Kenin, and Emma Raducanu, who has to play Melbourne runner-up Rybakina in the first round.
The men’s draw is pretty quiet. Aslan Karatsev is the top seed and is joined by Nikoloz Basilashvili, Dan Evans and Reilly Opelka. Melbourne runner-up Cressy will look to keep his good form going with a special exemption (no, not a COVID exemption).
The draw at the second event in Adelaide is not as stacked as last week, but is still led by world No. 2 Aryna Sabalenka. Elina Svitolina was the second seed, but lost her opening match to Madison Keys.
Gauff is the third seed and will be looking to take advantage of a much better draw after having to deal with Barty early in the first Adelaide event.
Gael Monfils will look to go back-to-back in Adelaide as he is the top seed again this week on the men’s side. His field of challengers once again includes Karen Khachanov, who he beat in the first final, and Marin Cilic, as well as American John Isner, who competed in the ATP Cup last week.
Under the Radar: Australian Open qualifying begins
While main draw play does not begin for another week, Australian Open qualifying begins with a pair of Canadians looking to find their way into the main draw.
Rebecca Marino has already taken the first step, winning her first qualifying match in straight sets. She needs two more wins to get into the main draw. Fresh off the win at the ATP Cup, Brayden Schnur is competing in qualifying on the men’s side.
Vasek Pospisil will get his season underway on the ATP Challenger Tour this week at an event in Forli, Italy.
A number of Canadians are kicking off their 2022 campaigns on the ITF world tour, including a trio of women competing in Vero Beach, Florida.
You can follow the Canadians in action every week here.