Photo: ATP Tour

Losses for Milos Raonic and Denis Shapovalov on day two of ATP Cup action saw Canada drop out of contention in Group A. Raonic’s close 7-6(4), 7-6(2) defeat to Jan-Lennard Struff followed by Shapovalov’s hard-fought 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-6(4) loss to Alexander Zverev sealed the team’s fate on a tough day in Melbourne.

Having met three times previously, Raonic held the advantage with a 2-1 win record over Struff heading into this encounter. Their first and most recent meetings – at Wimbledon in 2017 and at the 2019 Indian Wells event respectively – went the way of the Canadian. Struff, meanwhile, claimed victory over Raonic in Dubai two years ago.

Fresh from a convincing 6-3, 6-4 win over Dusan Lajovic in Monday’s clash with Serbia – which ultimately ended in a 2-1 loss for Team Canada – Raonic relied on his strong serve against Struff to send the first set to a tiebreak. The German took an early 3-0 lead and consolidated that to 6-1, giving him five set points. Raonic rallied back to 6-4 but Struff held strong to see out the set 7-6(4).

The Canadian fought off five break points in the eighth game of the second set, having dropped his first service game before immediately breaking back. Ultimately, neither player could carve out a clear lead – until, that was, another tiebreak saw Struff jump out to a 5-0 advantage. Raonic couldn’t force a way back this time and fell 7-6(2).

Onto the second match, which Shapovalov had to win against Zverev to keep Team Canada’s hopes of a spot in the semi-finals alive. The Canadian had fought well against Novak Djokovic around 24 hours earlier but ended up losing 7-5, 7-5 to the World No. 1. Could he fare better against the World No, 7?

He certainly made a strong case as he took the first set 7-6(5) following an exhilarating tiebreak. The second set, though, fell the way of the German – who had won three of the five previous meetings between the pair.

The third and final set was laced with a number of highlight reel-worthy rallies in which both players showcased their athletic ability and shot-making prowess. Shapovalov was on the ropes at times, with Zverev crafting seven break points in total, but still forced a tiebreak.

There, the Canadian took a 3-1 lead but an unforced error brought it back to 3-2 and gave Zverev the confidence to pull level at 3-3. A double fault from Shapovalov soon ensured Zverev went 5-3 ahead and the German then saw out the set at 7-6(4) to seal Team Canada’s fate.