The Canadian team is in Madrid at the Caja Magica preparing for next week’s start of the Davis Cup Finals and a first-round meeting on Monday against Italy.
Surprising news on Friday was that team captain Frank Dancevic is in quarantine. He has come down with a nasty bout of flu and is being kept away from his players for fear of contagion.
In the meantime, coach Fred Fontang (above with Félix Auger-Aliassime) was handling workouts on Friday in Pista 4 (practice court 4), which also involved Vasek Pospisil and Brayden Schnur.
Auger-Aliassime, Pospisil and Schnur have been at the Caja Magica since Wednesday with team No. 1 Denis Shapovalov and doubles coach Daniel Nestor arriving Friday and Saturday respectively.
There isn’t too much concern about the 35-year-old Dancevic but doctors’ advice is that the wisest approach for him is to remain apart from the players just to be ultra-cautious.
Friday afternoon, Auger-Aliassime first hit with Schnur (above) and then had more practice with Pospisil. Auger-Aliassime, playing in his second Davis Cup after making his debut in Slovakia in February, looked to be over the ankle injury that forced him to withdraw from the Vienna ATP 500 event last month.
As for the 29-year-old Pospisil, he’s coming off Challenger titles in Las Vegas and Charlottesville and was riding a 12-match winning streak until he had to retire with a back issue in the second round of the Knoxville Challenger two weeks ago.
On Friday he said that the problem was simply some stiffness from all the tennis he had been playing and that he’s feeling shipshape at the moment. He sounded a bit like he has a cold but it’s one of those situations when you’re finished the cold but still carry the effects in your voice.
Now ranked No. 149, a good ranking considering he missed more than half the season following back surgery in January, Pospisil is a possibility for singles but it’s more likely that he will partner Shapovalov in doubles.
On a side note – a Davis Cup chauffeur on Friday recalled driving Shapovalov to a restaurant after he won a match at the clay-court Masters 1000 in Madrid last May – and it was to a Burger King.
The driver also informed his passengers that it very rarely snows in Madrid but that some of the white stuff did descend last year – in April of all months.
There’s quite an extensive support group in Madrid for the Canadian team and it includes Auger-Aliassime’s fitness trainer Nicolas Perrotte (above right) and racquet stringer Yvon Gilbert, who was ill and missed Canada’s World Group qualifier in Slovakia in February. That ended a streak of 42 consecutive ties for the sure-fingered Montrealer.
Players are gradually arriving at the Caja Magica for the first-ever Davis Cup grand finale featuring 18 nations all in the same location.
Among those seen on Friday were Serbian veteran Viktor Troicki and Spanish stalwart Pablo Carreno Busta.
On practice court Pista 2 mid-afternoon the Argentine team was working out. During a break its No. 1 player Diego Schwartzman can be seen above having a good laugh with his mates. In the foreground on the right is Guido Pella, who upset Milos Raonic at Wimbledon this year.
Also getting prepped for next week were the Chileans on Pista 1. In the picture here are captain Nicolas Massu talking to doubles player Hans Podlipnik while Christian Garin moves toward the net during a doubles training session. The coach of World No. 5 Dominic Thiem, Massu (gold medalist in singles and doubles at the 2004 Athens Olympics) would normally be at the ATP Finals in London with the Austrian but he had a prior commitment to lead the Chilean Davis Cup team. He left London on Wednesday.
And a final word about the playing conditions – word has it that the (Dunlop) balls are fast but that the court surface is slow.
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The temperature was only about seven degrees by late afternoon on Friday, but that didn’t faze the Madrilenos as they comfortably suited up and enjoyed outdoor cafe life.