Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov will be team members again on the international tennis stage as Canada is set to compete at the 2022 Davis Cup Finals from Malaga, Spain.
The event will conclude a gruelling 10-plus month tennis calendar with players from eight different countries competing in the team vs. team format, eventually crowning a champion come Sunday.
With rising superstar Auger-Aliassime, now ranked world No. 6, top 20 talent Shapovalov and doubles grand slam champion Vasek Pospisil on the roster, the optimism for Canada’s chances is at an all-time high.
“It’s an incredibly strong team, and we have a chance to win it,” says team captain Frank Dancevic.
Quebec’s Alexis Galarneau and Gabriel Diallo round out the five-player roster.
It’s the first time that Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov have competed together at the competition since advancing to the finals in 2019 and if he has some fuel left in the reserves, Auger-Aliassime will be relied upon as the top singles player.
The Montreal native has been one of the tour’s very best competitors this fall, reeling off three consecutive ATP titles with wins in Florence, Antwerp, and Basel.
The immense stretch of tennis earned him a spot in the ATP Finals from Turin, where he notched his first career win over Rafael Nadal, before being eliminated by American Taylor Fritz in a tight three-set encounter.
The great results have also meant a substantial workload for the 22-year-old, who’s played 84 matches to date.
“He’s had an incredible season — now it’s all about managing his energy,” said Team captain Frank Dancevic.
Auger-Aliassime has won 20 of 26 matches since the US Open.
Meanwhile, Shapovalov is coming off a busy stretch of his own.
Despite enduring a tumultuous campaign from May to mid-August, losing eight of nine matches, the electrifying left-hander has managed to rebound and salvage his year with strong performances on the indoor hard courts.
Shapovalov reached two ATP finals this fall, with runner-up finishes in Korea and Vienna, relying on his punishing groundstrokes and potent lefty serve to dictate play.
He also has a big-match pedigree, reaching the Wimbledon semifinals a year ago, and quarterfinals at both the Australian and US Open.
Dancevic, who’s held the title of team captain since 2017, has had dreams of what this team could one day accomplish, given the young core of talent led by the two stars.
“You can’t predict the future, but they had so much potential as young guys coming on the team,” acknowledged Dancevic. “They had huge games at a young age, but at the same time, to get to where they are now, there had to be a lot of work done and a lot of self-motivation.”
Joining along to contribute as the top doubles option is Pospisil, a native of Vernon, B.C.
Since the retirement of legendary doubles great Daniel Nestor, Pospisil has taken over as the established veteran of this team, and the 32-year-old has shown he has plenty of quality tennis still ahead in his career.
Pospisil recently captured his 11th career ATP Challenger singles title, winning in Drummondville, Que.
He’s also been the most consistent presence on the Davis Cup roster, playing in 22 ties and 49 matches.
“He’s a real leader and he’s been a rock for our team the last five years, having some huge wins,” said Dancevic.
Pospisil and Auger-Aliassime clinched Canada’s berth into the finals stage back in September, teaming up to win doubles rubbers over both Korea and Spain.
Whereas Canada boasts solid depth with elite options in both singles and doubles, several teams are without their best.
Spain, missing the presence of both Carlos Alcaraz and Rafael Nadal, have already been eliminated by Croatia.
Last year’s champions, the Russian Tennis Federation, were barred from competition this season due to the invasion of Ukraine.
Australia, though talented and dangerous, are without Wimbledon finalist Nick Kyrgios.
Meanwhile, Canada will be a heavy favourite in their opening quarterfinal tie against Germany.
The German squad is missing 2020 US Open finalist and former world No. 2 Alexander Zverev, who suffered a serious foot injury earlier this year at Roland Garros. The team’s top singles player is world No. 65, Oscar Otte.
If Canada advances to the semifinals, they will face the winner of Italy and the United States.
The Italians have an intriguing combination of firepower and finesse with standout singles players Matteo Berrettini and Lorenzo Musetti.
Meantime, the American squad bears a striking resemblance to Canada; they have a young top 10 presence in Taylor Fritz, a dazzling shot maker in Frances Tiafoe, and doubles slam champion Jack Sock, who in fact won Wimbledon in 2014 while partnering with Vasek Pospisil.
For Dancevic, he’s already seen his current team yield results with a finals run in 2019, and is not only confident in the skillset but also their makeup.
“We have a good mix of experience and youth — we have a great vibe going in,” mused the captain. “Over the years we’ve grown as a team and gotten to know each other better and bonded.”
Canada has twice reached the finals of this storied event (1913 and 2019).
The right blend of talent, pedigree and confidence may just push them to the coveted trophy in Malaga.