Photo : Martin Sidorjak
It all comes down to this. One week, one event, one extremely large trophy up for grabs.
Eight countries, including Team Canada presented by Sobeys, will do battle at the Davis Cup this week in Malaga, the final event on the 2022 tennis calendar.
The Canadians will like their chances of finishing the year on a high note as they are sending their A-team, full of players coming into the Finals in strong form.
Here’s what you need to know ahead of the last week of tennis…. For a month.
What to Watch: Canada’s Best Look for Strong Finish in Malaga
After two years in Madrid, the Davis Cup Finals shifts to the south coast of Spain for the third edition of the re-formatted event.
Canada is one of eight teams who advanced to the knockout stage after a successful campaign during the group stage in September.
The Canadian team in Malaga is nearly identical to the one that finished second in Group B in Valencia two months ago, defeating Spain and South Korea, only with one key addition.
Félix Auger-Aliassime and Vasek Pospisil carried the weight in the group stage and are back for the knockout round, as are Alexis Galarneau and Gabriel Diallo who were both part of the group-stage squad.
Joining the Valencia group is world No. 18 Denis Shapovalov, who will be returning to the Canadian team for the first time since the 2019 Davis Cup Finals.
Shapovalov, Auger-Aliassime and Pospisil were all members of the 2019 squad that reached the final of the Davis Cup for the first time in the modern era. The last time Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime teamed up for Canada, they won the ATP Cup in January.
In terms of individual player rankings, Canada boasts the strongest lineup of the eight countries. At No. 6 in the world, Auger-Aliassime is the highest ranked player in Malaga, while Shapovalov is likely to be the highest-ranked No. 2 player for any country.
Germany is the first nation standing in Canada’s way. They will meet in the quarter-finals on Thursday at 4:00 pm local (10:00 am EST). The Germans are led by Oscar Otte and Jan-Lennard Struff.
Auger-Aliassime won his lone previous match with Otte last month indoors in Florence in three sets. It was the first victory of what became a 16-match winning streak for the Canadian.
Shapovalov is very familiar with his potential opponent, Struff. The pair have played eight times, with the German leading the head-to-head 5-3. However, Shapovalov has won two of the last three meetings, including earlier this year in international play at the ATP Cup. The Canadian has also won three of five matches on hard courts with the German.
Should Canada defeat Germany, they would meet either Italy or the United States in the semifinals. The Americans have the second-highest ranked singles players behind the Canadians, No. 9 Taylor Fritz, who beat Auger-Aliassime last week at the ATP Finals, and No. 19 Frances Tiafoe. Canada’s semifinal would be on Saturday, Nov. 26.
On the other half of the draw in Malaga, hosts Spain play Croatia, while Australia faces the Netherlands.
The final will be played on Sunday, Nov. 27.
In Case You Missed it: Vasek Victorious at Home, Felix debuts in Turin
While most members of Team Canada had strong finishes to their seasons, Vasek Pospisil may be arriving in Malaga with the most wind in his sails after claiming the ATP Challenger title on home soil last week in Drummondville.
The victory bookends the season with titles for the Canadian No. 3, who won a Challenger event in France in January.
Pospisil defeated second seed Michael Mmoh in three sets in the final to claim his 11th career ATP Challenger title and his first in Canada since 2013. With the win, he jumps back into the Top 100 in the ATP Rankings for the first time in a year.
Eight Canadians were competing in Drummondville, including Pospisil’s Davis Cup teammates Gabriel Diallo and Alexis Galarneau, who reached the quarter-finals.
The ATP Finals capped off the 2022 season last week with Novak Djokovic emerging from the elite eight-man field to claim his sixth title at the year-end championships.
That group included Félix Auger-Aliassime, who made his debut at the ATP Finals, posting a 1-2 record in the round robin and finishing third in the green group.
His lone victory came in his second match, when he scored his first win over Rafael Nadal in straight sets. Auger-Aliassime was beaten in his opening match by the eventual runner-up Casper Ruud.
Hopes of a semifinal appearance for the Canadian came down to the final round robin match with Taylor Fritz, but Auger-Aliassime fell in three sets and was eliminated.
Despite skipping the ATP Finals with an injury, Carlos Alcaraz was still able to finish the season as the year-end No. 1 player after both Nadal and Stefanos Tsitsipas were eliminated in the group stage.
You can follow the Canadians in action every week here.