Photo : Martin Sidorjak
If you gotta go, go with a bang.
It’s a common saying in life, and one that the men’s tennis tour takes very seriously.
The final top-level competition for the men begins this week and Team Canada presented by Sobeys will be in the spotlight as the most prestigious team competition in the world takes place in Europe.
Here’s what you need to know.
What to watch: Davis Cup is back
It has been two years since the inaugural Davis Cup Finals were held, but at long last the revamped men’s team competition returns this week in Madrid, Turin, and Innsbruck.
Team Canada presented by Sobeys is returning to the Spanish capital, hoping to re-capture the magic of 2019 when they reached the final.
Only two members of the 2019 runner-up team return in 2021, Vasek Pospisil and Brayden Schnur. Pospisil was the surprise hero two years ago, going 5-2 (3-1 in singles, 2-1 in doubles) as he helped the Canadians reach the final.
Joining the team for their first Finals are Peter Polansky and Steven Diez, replacing Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov, both of whom were members of the 2019 team but pulled out of this year’s event after long seasons on the ATP Tour.
Pospisil is the most experienced member of the team, boasting a career 22-19 record over 11 years as a member of Canada’s Davis Cup team presented by Sobeys. He is also Canada’s top-ranked singles and doubles player on this year’s team. As such, he will be expected to carry much of the load, likely playing singles and doubles in each tie.
For the other three members of the team, it has been a long time since they took to the court for their country. Despite having been nominated several times, Schnur has not played a Davis Cup match for Canada since 2017. It has been over a decade for Diez, whose only previous Davis Cup rubber was in 2010. The pair are a combined 0-3 in Davis Cup play.
After Pospisil, Polansky is the next most experienced member of the team with 14 rubbers to his name and an 8-6 record. However, his last appearance was in 2014, where he lost a pair of matches against Japan in the first round of the World Group.
Despite missing their top two players, Team Canada presented by Sobeys will still have a very good chance to make a run in Madrid. The draw gods were kind to the Canadians, putting them in group B with Sweden and Kazakhstan, whose players are similarly ranked to the Canadians.
Canada is not alone in missing their top stars. Only four of the Top 10, Novak Djokovic for Serbia, Daniil Medvedev and Andrey Rublev for Russia, and Jannik Sinner for Italy, will be competing in the Davis Cup Finals. Less than half of the teams competing have a Top 30 player on their roster.
Spain are the defending champions and have brought back four of the five players for their champion 2019 team. Only Rafael Nadal, who clinched the title with a win over Shapovalov, is out and is replaced by young gun Carlos Alcaraz.
The 18 teams are divided into six groups of three. The winners of each group automatically advance to the quarter-finals, along with the two best second place teams.
Canada’s first tie will be against Sweden on Thursday. They then play Kazakhstan on Sunday. The tournament will run for two weeks.
In Case You Missed It: Zverev, Muguruza end seasons on high note
Regular action on the ATP and WTA Tours concluded this week with Alexander Zverev and Garbine Muguruza emerging victorious at their respective Tour Finals.
First up was Muguruza, capturing her first year-end championship. To do so, she had to put an end to Anett Kontaveit’s incredible run to end the season by beating the Estonian in straight sets in the final.
Kontaveit had squeaked into the event by winning her last two tournaments and then reached a third straight final in Guadalajara, but finally met her match in the form of the two-time major champion from Spain.
Muguruza actually beat Kontaveit twice in Guadalajara, in the round robin and in the final, both times in straight sets.
Canada’s Sharon Fichman was eliminated in the group stage of the doubles after going 0-3.
Over in Turin, Alexander Zverev grabbed his second trophy at the ATP Finals, finishing with an incredible weekend that saw him beat the top two players in the world, Novak Djokovic and Daniil Medvedev, back-to-back in the semis and final.
The German had lost to Medvedev in the group stage and barely survived a third-set tiebreak against Sinner, who filled in for the injured Matteo Berrettini, before catching fire on the weekend, claiming the title by avenging his earlier loss to Medvedev in straight sets.
Zverev went 6-0 in finals in 2021, only dropping one set and winning his last four finals all in straight sets.
Sinner caught a massive break at the ATP Finals thanks to Berrettini’s injury. As a replacement, he stepped in and defeated Hubert Hurkacz in the round robin, which allowed the young Italian to finish the season in the Top 10, bumping out Auger-Aliasssime.
Under the Radar:
Canada’s Gabriel Diallo reached his second final on the ITF circuit of 2021 last week in East Lansing, Michigan, losing a tight three-setter to top seed Raymond Sarmiento.
There are a pair of Canadians in Challenger action this week, as both Alexis Galarneau and Liam Draxl will be competing in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
The ATP and the WTA Tours may be quieting down, the ITF is still going strong with Canadians continuing to compete all over the globe this week.
You can follow the Canadians in action every week here.