BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Carlos Alcaraz's biggest fans had flocked to see the world's new top-ranked player in his homecoming to Spain.
Instead, they witnessed Montreal's Felix Auger-Aliassime beat their new idol before staying on the hard court to secure a second victory in doubles and help Canada score a 2-1 upset win over Spain in the Davis Cup group phase on Friday.
Alcaraz lost 6-7 (3), 6-4, 6-2 to a superb Auger-Aliassime, who endured the partisan crowd and tilted the match at Valencia his way after the 19-year-old Spaniard dug deep to claim the first-set tiebreaker.
As the pavilion roared for Alcaraz, Auger-Aliassime coolly responded by surgically placing shot after shot exactly where he wanted. He dominated on his serve with 16 aces and eventually broke Alcaraz late in the second set and twice in the third.
“He is the world No. 1 and big credit to him for that, but today I think I was a little bit better in the third set,” the 13th-ranked Auger-Aliassime said. “I wasn’t going to let my team down with my fighting spirit.”
The Spaniard had high praise for Auger-Aliassime after their match.
“Felix is a beast. Physically and mentally, Felix is one of the best in the world,” Alcaraz said after his first match since winning the U.S. Open last weekend to become the youngest man to rise to the top of the ATP rankings.
“I didn’t come in very good physical condition,” he added. “It was a very tough day, but I have to say congratulations to him because he played an unbelievable game.”
Roberto Bautista gave Spain the first point after he fought back for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win against Vasek Pospisil.
With no time to recover, Auger-Aliassime and Pospisil showed no sign of being worn down when they came from behind to beat Marcel Granollers and Pedro Martínez 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 in the decider.
Canada next plays Serbia on Saturday while Spain faces South Korea on Sunday to determine which two advance to the quarterfinals in November in the southern Spanish city of Málaga.
Spain beat Serbia 3-0 on Wednesday while Alcaraz was resting after jetting home from New York where he won his first Grand Slam singles title on Sunday after a grueling run that included three consecutive five-set victories.
Before the Davis Cup tie, Alcaraz was busy signing autographs and posing for photos after practice. He received the biggest applause when the Spain team was presented and he was introduced as the “new world No. 1.”
After the match, he didn't focus on the loss, but rather the joy he got from being back home.
“I wanted to come back to Spain, I mean to share this moment to be No. 1 and to be U.S. Open champion with all my people,” Alcaraz said.
After Spanish fans had to stay up practically all night to watch his matches at the U.S. Open due to the time difference, this was the first chance many of his supporters had to watch him play at home since May when he won the Madrid Open. Alcaraz beat Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev in the capital in what many saw as Nadal passing the torch to his Spanish successor.
Red and yellow flags were draped over railings at the pavilion, including one with the name of Alcaraz’s home region, Murcia, painted in big black letters. Valencia, on the Mediterranean coast, is about 2 1/2 hours north of Alcaraz’s hometown of El Palmar, population 24,000.
Alcaraz had only one previous meeting with Auger-Aliassime, at the 2021 U.S. Open quarterfinals when the Spaniard had to retire due to injury.
While Alcaraz arrived from a tiring two weeks in the U.S., Auger-Aliassime played singles and doubles on Tuesday to help Canada beat South Korea in their Davis Cup opener.
Unable to touch Auger-Aliassime's serve, Alcaraz summoned more cheers from the stands, which included his parents. He pumped his fist toward captain Sergi Bruguera and personal coach Juan Carlos Ferrero after hard-won points.
That proved enough for Alcaraz to eke out the first-set tiebreaker after Auger-Aliassime's untimely errors.
But Auger-Aliassime never lost the initiative. Canada captain Frank Dancevic jumped out of his court-side seat to cheer when Auger-Aliassime finally broke Alcaraz late in the second set. The Canadian poured it on.
Also on Friday, the Netherlands advanced after beating Andy Murray’s Britain 2-1 in Glasgow. The result also meant the United States advanced from Group D.
Germany and Australia advanced from Group C after the Germans beat Belgium 2-1, while Italy defeated Argentina 2-1 in Bologna in Group A.