Photo : Massimo Paolini/AP
In Davis Cup, anything can happen.
It’s been said time and time again for decades by captains and players alike, from Pierre Lamarche to Louis Cayer, Martin Laurendeau and Frank Dancevic. I could also add the Canadian captains of Billie Jean King Cup, a similar competition for women.
And time and time again journalists have rolled their eyes at the word cliché flickering in their subconscious.
Yet how many times has the cliché turned out to be true?
Often. Very often.
While we’re on the topic of clichés, I like David and Goliath.
On September 13, it was indeed a David and Goliath rumble at Unipol Arena in Bologna as Canada took on the host nation.
Very few people would have predicted that No.200 Alexis Galarneau and No.158 Gabriel Diallo would topple No.38 Lorenzo Sonego and No.18 Lorenzo Musetti who hold two and three ATP titles, respectively.
And they did it in front of a riotous, partisan and hostile local crowd and without dropping a set.
How about that?!
It’s a win that galvanized the two newbies and veteran Vasek Pospisil for the rest of the week.
Let’s not forget Vasek. A superlative doubles player, the British Columbian once again rose to the occasion. Despite a season marred by four months off the court and just 16 matches in total, he still won a tough singles bout against Leo Borg, son of Bjorn, of Sweden.
In the end, Team Canada won 8 of its 9 matches—and 16 of 20 sets—versus the Italians, Swedes and Chileans.
In November 2022, Galarneau and Diallo were alternates in Canada’s quest to clinch the country’s very first Davis Cup in its 122-year history.
Ten months later, without Félix Auger-Aliassime and with Denis Shapovalov on the bench, it was their turn to shine. For Frank Dancevic, who headed the team last year in Spain with FAA and Shapo leading the charge, the Quebecers’ performances were transcendent.
Between November 2022 and September 2023, Gabriel and Alexis made phenomenal progress and, above all, seized every opportunity, as true champions do. Look at these two photos taken ten months apart and you’ll see how they’ve moved from the sidelines to centre stage.
You can’t make this stuff up.
And the future looks bright.
Grand Slam Gaby
The euphoria of the past week of Davis Cup quickly made us forget our country’s scarce success at the last major of the season.
Scarce but still very real.
The meagre yield in singles meant the media spotlight was on Gabriela Dabrowski’s dazzling sweep.
For the past decade, Gaby’s been racking up wins in women’s and mixed doubles on the tour and at international competitions including Billie Jean King Cup.
But on September 10 in NYC, she secured the title she coveted most: a women’s doubles Slam.
Her greatest glory. A career goal.
In the past decade, Gabriela Dabrowski has competed with several partners who must have been very happy to team up with her.
She’s fought in 33 WTA final including the Slams. At the US Open, Erin Routliffe was the 13th player to go into a final showdown with her.
In addition to the prestige and extraordinary feeling of achievement, there are two other important aspects to her fantastic feat.
First, Gaby moved up 10 spots in the rankings to re-enter the women’s doubles Top 10 as the World No.9.
Second, after she split the $700,000 prize with her partner, Gaby added $350,000 to her estimated year-to-date earnings of $198,000, bumping her total career earnings to $4,283,590.
With this gleaming new jewel in her crown, she’s now set her sights on Olympic hardware.
“That’s my main goal, and I hope to make it there. I want to win a medal for Canada,” she said in a video call with Canadian reporters on September 13.
Leylah Annie Fernandez would be the logical choice of partner, of course.
“We’ll have to wait after the French Open next year to see if we have the necessary ranking to participate. If Leylah were to qualify, then I would love to play with her. It would be a dream come true.”
In the quarters at Flushing Meadows, Gaby and Leylah ended up on the same court but opposite sides of the net. Dabrowski and Routliffe overcame a 2-7 deficit in the third-set tiebreaker to oust Fernandez and Taylor Townsend (2-6, 6-3, 7-6(8)).
Hopefully, there’ll be an updated version of this photo after Paris 2024.
The Laver Cup descends on Vancouver
For the first time in its brief history, the Laver Cup is coming to Canada, as Vancouver is set to host the caravan of tennis stars led by Roger Federer and none other than Rod Laver himself.
From September 22 to 24, Team World, including Félix Auger-Aliassime, will take on Team Europe.
Félix was a driving force behind his squad’s first triumph in London in 2022. While he’s not having as good a season as he did last year, we’re all hoping he’ll regain his form at this popular and spectacular competition.
With the competition in its sixth year, Europe remains the team to beat.
The 2023 edition promises to be an exciting one. Along with Félix, four Americans including Frances Tiafoe have received an invitation.
Source : Laver Cup
On September 22, there’ll be a tribute to the tournament’s founder Roger Federer, who said an emotional farewell to the game at last season’s event.
Follow all our Canadians in action here.