Auger-Aliassime defeats Kecmanovic, Canada advances to Davis Cup knockout stage

Team World's Felix Auger-Aliassime, of Canada, returns the ball to Team Europe's Matteo Berrettini, of Italy, at Laver Cup tennis, Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, in Boston (Elise Amendola/AP).

Felix Auger-Aliassime defeated Miomir Kecmanovic of Serbia on Saturday, to guarantee Canada’s men’s tennis team a spot in the quarterfinal stage of the Davis Cup Finals. 

A day after Auger-Aliassime upset Carlos Alcaraz — the world’s newest top-ranked player — to lead Canada past Spain, the Montreal native dispatched Kecmanovic, 6-3, 6-4.

“I’m really happy,” said No. 13 Auger-Aliassime. “It’s the best feeling not only to win important wins for myself, but also for the team. It’s very nice to see a smile on everyone’s face and make the team happy and proud.”

The Davis Cup quarterfinals are Nov. 22-27 in Malaga, Spain. 

Canada was defeated 2-1 by Serbia on Saturday, after Vasek Pospisil was forced to withdraw from the doubles match due to injury. 

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But Auger-Aliassime’s win had already given Canada the final point needed to guarantee a top-two finish in Group B. 

“I was a bit tired, but pushing myself was all worth it,” he said. “I’m really happy that I came and played with the level I did to get Canada through to the quarters. I’m really happy for the team. In the end, it’s all worth it.”

Auger-Aliassime continued to rely on his service, racking up nine aces and giving up only nine points on serve. He won the first set for the first time in the tournament, and didn’t look back. In the second set, he didn’t face a single breakpoint.

Canada’s chances to qualify for the knockout stage looked shaky earlier in the day when 20-year-old Gabriel Diallo of Quebec City lost to Laslo Djere, 6-2, 6-2, in his Davis Cup debut. 

“It was an honour to be selected by my country,” said Diallo, who’s ranked No. 334. “It’s something I’d been dreaming about since I was a little kid. I’m super grateful to be here. It’s obviously not the result I wanted, but I’m going to try and learn as much as possible. I think it’s just going to make me better, and I just have to keep my head down and work 20 times harder.”

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Diallo, No. 334, was coming off a victory at last month’s Granby National Bank Championships. 

Captain Frank Dancevic selected No. 141 Vasek Pospisil and No. 247 Alexis Galarneau for the doubles match, but after only 18 minutes of play, Pospisil was forced to retire. 

Despite the loss to Serbia, Dancevic was proud of his team’s efforts in Valencia.

“It’s been an incredible week, from the start to today. All the players and staff — it’s just been so much positive energy from all sides,” he said. “The guys, they played incredible tennis. There are a few matches where we were down in the third set, and we easily could have lost them. We just kept fighting until the end.”

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Meanwhile in Glasgow, Botic van de Zandschulp and Tallon Griekspoor won their singles against Americans Taylor Fritz and Tommy Paul for the Netherlands to finish top of their Davis Cup Finals group with a 2-1 win.

Van de Zandschulp settled the tie when he defeated Fritz, the world No. 12, 6-4, 7-6 (3) after Griekspoor opened with a 7-5, 7-6 (3) victory over Paul.

The Dutch had an unassailable 2-0 lead, then Rajeev Ram and Jack Sock earned some compensation for the Americans by winning their doubles against Wesley Koolhof and Matwe Middelkoop.

The United States and Netherlands were already assured of reaching the quarterfinals with two wins each in Group D. As group winner, the Dutch next face the runner-up in Group C, either Australia or Germany.

The U.S. will play the Group A winner, most likely Italy. The Italians play on Sunday in Bologna against Sweden.

Also on Saturday, Croatia defeated Argentina 3-0 for its second win after losing its opener to Italy.

France defeated Belgium 2-1 in Group C, where Australia and Germany were already assured of reaching the final eight.

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