There’s a definite rhythm to a Davis Cup week. The Monday and Tuesday before the Friday start are days when the players tend to put in the most hard work in preparing and acclimatizing.
By Wednesday, with the opening singles 48 hours away, there’s a plateau-ing in terms of energy output. By Thursday it’s nothing but a bit of tweaking and energy conservation for Friday’s best-of-five-set matches and the others that follow over the rest of the weekend.
The picture at the top here was at the end of a session of soccer/tennis as the Canadian players and team members booted, headed and ‘chested’ a soccer ball back-and-forth over the net in good fun following the day’s first team practice on Wednesday.
There was probably some indication by the members present about who may play the second singles behind Vasek Pospisil in Friday’s opening day action in the World Group play-off being held at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax.
Frank Dancevic was absent, practising later in the day, while Denis Shapovalov was there engaging in a doubles session alongside Jack Mingjie Lin of Markham, Ontario, the 17-year-old hitting partner with the Canadian team.
To start the day, Pospisil hit with Mingjie Lin before hooking up with Adil Shamasdin for a doubles practice versus Shapovalov and Mingjie Lin (above).
So Dancevic’s absence in the morning appears to indicate he will play the second singles but nothing is certain until the draw ceremony at 12:30 p.m. (11:30 a.m. ET) on Thursday.
It will be up to captain Martin Laurendeau – on left above, with Tennis Canada vice-president Louis Borfiga and Davis Cup coach Guillaume Marx (that’s team doctor Nicolas Sauvé and team masseur Jeff Ludovici in the second row) – to make the call as Canada attempts to maintain its spot in the World Group after a first-round 3-0 loss to France in Guadeloupe in March.
On Wednesday morning, Chilean captain Nicolas Massu (on left) had a courtside chat with tie referee Wayne McKewen (the Australian Open referee) and they were talking about the speed of the court.
There’s a special instrument used to determine court speed, which is classified in groups, with the fast courts being between 40-44 and the fastest from 45-50. Any surface that gives a reading above 50 is prohibited in Davis Cup. The indoor hard court at the Scotiabank Centre rates a 45.
“It’s pretty fast and especially the (Yonex) balls, they’re little kind of pellets and really fly through the air,” said Canadian doubles player Adil Shamasdin, shown above with Chile’s Hans Podlipnik-Castillo. “I don’t know if it’s the ball or the court – it’s definitely a quicker surface.
“That’s kind of how we want it. I think everybody is adjusting to it and hopefully we’ll be able to adjust a little bit better than the other team.”
While there appears to be no sure choices for the Chileans in singles, there’s a fair chance that 6-foot-6 Nicolas Jarry, 20 and ranked No. 423, will be one of the players.
That’s the rangy Jarry on the left above. Shamasdin expects Jarry will also play doubles with Podlipnik-Castillo.
“Podlipnik and Jarry – I’m kind of assuming,” was the No. 70-ranked Shamasdin’s reply when asked about the likely Chilean doubles combination. “I know Hans from playing a lot of tournaments and seeing him around and practising with him. He’s obviously a very good player and he plays on a lot of other surfaces as well. And Jarry I don’t know too much about – I did watch some tape just to see what he’s like. I haven’t really seen him play. He definitely has a good serve and he can volley decent – so I think that would be their combination. Hans is ranked about 60 (No. 65) and he’s experienced and knows how to play on different surfaces.”
Shamasdin, 34, who saw his first Davis Cup doubles action last July with Daniel Nestor in a losing effort in Ostend, Belgium, is slightly cautious about even assuming he will be joining forces with Pospisil in the absence of the injured Daniel Nestor.
“I think that’s what the situation is right now but I guess you never know,” he said. “I’m just trying to be ready as much as possible and go from there.”
About playing with Pospisil, he said, “I like his intensity, his energy. He’s a pretty fiery guy and if I’m down he’s like ‘don’t worry about it we’ll get it back.’ He’ll pick me up a little bit and if he’s down I’ll do the same.”
Sizing up this weekend’s singles, Shamasdin, who reached the Wimbledon doubles quarter-finals in July with British partner Jonathan Marray, confirmed what most Canadian fans believe. “There’s not too many secrets,” he said. “Vasek is the highest-ranked player on paper, he should be able to win. But it’s Davis Cup and really anything can happen. They (Chile) have good players that have played Challengers and they’ve done well. We’ll see how they get accustomed to the quick courts. I know they prefer to play on the clay so hopefully this throws them for a bit of a loop.”
There are formalities involved in Davis Cup and when Halifax mayor Mike Savage dropped by the Scotiabank Centre on Wednesday Nestor and Pospisil were happy to oblige and provide a photo op.
The other Davis Cup formality is the traditional dinner to be held Wednesday evening.
Canada last played Chile in April 2008, on clay in Santiago, with current captain Massu and Fernando Gonzalez being responsible for all three points in the host nation’s 3-0 victory.
Other Davis Cup action
The marquee ties this weekend are in Glasgow, Scotland, and Zadar, Croatia, as the British host the Argentines in one World Group semifinal while France travels to Croatia in the other.
The defending champion Brits have a team led by Andy and Jamie Murray, that also also includes Kyle Edmund and Dan Evans, for the tie on an indoor hard court surface at Emirates Arena. Playing for Argentina will be Juan Martin del Potro, Federico Delbonis, Guido Pella and Leonardo Mayer.
What could be fascinating about this tie is that Andy Murray, ranked No. 2, could play del Potro, ranked No. 64, on the first day in a key match. Both Delbonis and Pella rank ahead of del Potro so, unless No. 119 Mayer played singles, Murray, as the top Brit, would play the Argentines’ No. 2, which would be del Potro if he is named for singles. Of course Murray – del Potro would be a re-match of the Rio 2016 Olympics gold medal match.
In Zadar at the Kresimir Cosic Hall, Marin Cilic and Borna Coric headline a Croatian team that also includes Ivan Dodig and Marin Draganja. Yannick Noah’s visiting French team consists of Richard Gasquet, Lucas Pouille, Nicolas Mahut and Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
The Davis Cup final will be played November 25-27.
Halifax post card
These are a couple of cleverly named watering holes in downtown Halifax located on Prince Street as it slopes down toward the harbour.