Photo : Kosmos Tennis
Almost a year removed from winning it all, Team Canada presented by Sobeys is back together and looking to run it back at the Davis Cup.
The Canadians are competing in the group stage of the Davis Cup Finals in Bologna, Italy this week, looking to advance to November’s knockout stage in Malaga, Spain, the site of their 2022 victory.
This week’s event is the first time the Canadian squad are competing together since winning the title last November, as the nation had a bye in the qualifying stage which took place earlier this year.
“It feels great,” said captain Frank Dancevic at the team’s pre-event press conference on Monday. “You know, it’s been almost a year since the championship and it’s great to be back, the guys back together. We’ve been here early training, getting ready for the event. So we’re excited to get started again.”
Reunited and it feels so good
Four of the five members of the championship-winning team from last year are back to kick off the title defence: Denis Shapovalov, Vasek Pospisil, Gabriel Diallo, and Alexis Galarneau. They are joined by newcomer Kelsey Stevenson.
For Shapovalov, who watched some clips of the 2022 run right before the team press conference, it’s “bringing back of a lot of good feelings, that I’m back part of the team and it was just a super special feeling last year. We did it for Canada.”
Pospisil has been on the Canadian team longer than any playing member of the squad, so for him the victory hit a little differently.
“It was obviously an incredible accomplishment. It was a big relief because I feel like we were kind of building and getting closer and closer to getting to the championship back in 2013. We made the semi-finals and the semi-finals was not good enough. It was a little bit of a relief [when Canada won the title] just because I’m 33 and I know I don’t have 10 years ahead of me in the sport. Definitely the top of my career.”
Run it back
But enough nostalgia, now it is time to focus on the title defence.
If the former world No. 10 Shapovalov feels any pressure as the defending champion, he did not show it. In fact, he expressed the opposite, saying “I feel like this year, it’s kind of like nothing to lose. We have no chip on our shoulder and we can just go out there and enjoy ourselves.”
Pospisil expressed similar feelings about being back with his teammates.
“Playing for your country is a totally different kind of feeling than playing for yourself. I have a lot of fun. It’s a really fun week,” said Pospisil. “It’s the best of both worlds in the sense where, one it just means a lot more to play for your country and it’s the biggest event that we have in tennis. And then secondly, it also happens to be a nice little break away from the intense individual competition that we’re playing all year. So it’s just nice to come and be in a locker room and be around good people in the team and you know, having a lot of fun.”
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“We’re very relaxed. You know how difficult it is to win the Davis Cup and we have to overcome many obstacles to win it and the stars have to align in a way” said Dancevic.
But is the captain concerned? No at all.
“I know one thing: we’re a great team. We always put up a great fight against any team we’re playing and we always put ourselves in the position to win matches and to win ties no matter what the score is. This has been our mentality in the past. And this is what we’re doing now. We’re just focused on getting the guys ready.”
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Canada opens their title defence on Wednesday against Italy, the hosts for Group A. They play Sweden on Thursday and finish against Chile on Saturday. The top two teams in the group advance to the quarter-finals in November.