Canada Has Golden Opportunity at Davis Cup

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Toronto, Ontario, Canada– For the first time since 2010, Davis Cup action is returning to Canada’s most populated city. In the intimate atmosphere of Coca-Cola Coliseum in downtown Toronto, Canada’s premier male tennis players will take the court, hoping to break a tie with the Netherlands to remain in the World Group.

“This is an important tie for us as we are hoping to maintain our place in the World Group for next year,” Captain Frank Dancevic said in a statement. “We believe that we belong among the elite nations and that we can aspire to win the Davis Cup trophy in the near future. To get there, we need to continue to work as a team and to build on our foundation that is already quite strong.”

Raonic, Shapovalov Headline Canadian Team

While Canada’s current ranking isn’t as high as it was when they made the semifinals of Davis Cup in 2013, it probably showcases the most talent. Milos Raonic and Denis Shapovalov are the two players Dancevic has decided to play in the pivotal singles matches.

“It’s exciting. We’ve got two young guys here since I last played that have been playing incredibly well over the past 18 months or so,” said Raonic, referring to Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime. “We’re all excited for this. We’re excited it’s here in downtown Toronto, as well.”

Raonic, ranked 20th in the world, has battled a lot of physical ailments this year. He withdrew from the Monte-Carlo Masters battling a knee injury. Then, he injured the same leg at Wimbledon. Most recently, he needed treatment on his back against John Isner in the 4th round of the US Open. But the Canadian’s experience in the Davis Cup will be vital to the team. In 2015, he was the anchor of Canada’s 3-2 victory over Japan in the Davis Cup. There was no doubt that after the US Open, Raonic would be ready to help his teammates.

“As soon as I got cleared,” said Raonic on confirming his Davis Cup participation. “Pretty much the following 48 hours after the match with Isner, that everything was OK.”

Denis Shapovalov is playing in his first Davis Cup wearing the red and white. While the Canadian youngster hasn’t won a tournament this year, he recently took Kevin Anderson to five sets at the US Open, losing in a thrilling match. He will take on Robin Haase in his opening match, who he recently lost to at the Rogers Cup 7-5, 6-2.

“Haase is definitely a tough match for me, Robin’s an incredible player, he’s been playing really well over the summer, he’s got some good wins under his belt a lot of confidence,” said Shapovalov. “It’s definitely not going to be easy, but at the same time I’ve had a really good summer as well.”

Last Davis Cup Matches Before Format Change

It will be a bittersweet Davis Cup event in Toronto. As Canada tries to earn a spot in next year’s qualifying round, it will be the last time the Davis Cup exists in this current format. Next year, there will be a season-ending team event featuring 18 countries, taking place after the ATP World Tour Finals in London.

The major criticism felt amongst players is that after a grueling 12-month schedule, the top talent will not want to go play Davis Cup. This would reduce the worldwide economic success of the event, as normally it has enticed players to compete in Davis Cup when matches are spread out throughout the year.

But Canada’s chances of hosting the final Davis Cup event would be significantly reduced. Given that other countries around the world have a greater influence on the sport of tennis, it makes the likelihood of Canada being the host close to an impossibility. Felix Auger-Aliassime, Canada’s Davis Cup reserve player, expressed his frustrations about the recent overhaul of the Davis Cup.

“One of my biggest dream as a kid was to one day play a Davis Cup final in front of my home crowd,” said Auger-Aliassime. “Sadly I’ll never have the chance to experience Davis cup like I grew up watching it. I still hoped tradition and history would win over money, but I guess that’s where we are now.”

Canada with Chance To Have Best Davis Cup Team

Canada’s Davis Cup team is more than just Milos Raonic and Denis Shapovalov. Vasek Pospisil and Daniel Nestor, who will be paired in the doubles match on Saturday, are looking for an opportunity to solidify themselves into Canadian sports history. Nestor currently holds the most wins for Canada in Davis Cup with 48 and will be playing in his last competition after 25 successful years. Pospisil has declined in his doubles ranking but he was number four in the world in 2015.

It begs the question whether this is Canada’s best team fielded at the Davis Cup. It is hard not to look back with awe when Daniel Nestor defeated Stefan Edberg in 1992, then the world number one. Or in 2013, when a 23-year-old Milos Raonic pulled off the upset of a lifetime defeating both Spain and Italy en route to the semifinals.

This 2018 Davis Cup team, however, is not afraid in the big moments. From Shapovalov’s victory over Rafael Nadal in the 2017 Rogers Cup to Auger-Aliassime’s defeating Lucas Pouille this year, the kids of this team do not shy away from adversity. Perhaps it will be the dream doubles pairing of Pospisil and Nestor, who could give Canada an edge with a win in the best-of-five tie with the Netherlands.

The Netherlands should not be overlooked. They are favoured in the doubles and Robin Haase is a veteran singles player. But with the home crowd set to exhibit a tremendous amount of national pride, expect the Canadian tennis stars to put on a show.

“Many players come from in and around the Toronto area and this will be a unique opportunity to play a Davis Cup tie at home in front of their families and friends,” says Dancevic. “I have a lot of confidence in our team. We are getting more and more depth and we know that we can accomplish great things together.”

Main Photo:
Embed from Getty Images

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