Canada will once again be relying on its youth when the revamped Davis Cup Finals start on Monday in Spain.
The week-long event will take place in Madrid on three indoor hard courts with a format similar to that of soccer’s World Cup.
It will certainly spice up the competition and add some flair, although the Canadians will be missing a key piece in their rotation. Canada captain Frank Dancevic found out a week before the event that No. 31 Milos Raonic would miss the competition with a back injury.
So who does that leave the Canadians with, and how can they reach international tennis glory? Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the Davis Cup Finals.
From: Richmond Hill, Ont.
ATP Ranking: 15
Shapovalov enters the Davis Cup on a great run of late highlighted by an October victory – his first ATP title – at the Stockholm Open over Filip Krajinovic. Two tournaments later he reached the final of the ATP 1000 Rolex Paris Masters before losing to Novak Djokovic. It’s a great sight for Canadian tennis fans after an otherwise down year for Shapovalov following a breakout 2018. He’s now ranked No. 15 on the ATP Tour, his highest ranking to date.
ATP Ranking: 21
Auger-Aliassime’s season started strong, but he failed to advance deep into events since June. He was a finalist at three tournaments in 2019, including the Rio Open, Lyon Open and Mercedes Cup while also being a semifinalist at the ATP 1000 Miami Open. Overall, he was 33-22 this season and will be a key component should Canada have success at the Davis Cup. Auger-Aliassime is coming off a left ankle injury which forced him to withdraw from the NextGen ATP Finals earlier in November.
ATP Ranking: 149
Pospisil returned to the tennis scene during the middle of the season after recovering from a back injury. He will likely slot in for the Canadians in doubles play despite some singles success of late. Pospisil recently won back-to-back Challenger Tour titles by beating fellow Canadian Brayden Schnur in Charlottesville a week after downing Australian James Duckworth in Las Vegas. Other notable results this season include a Round of 16 loss to Daniil Medvedev at the Shanghai Masters in October.
ATP Ranking: 94
Schnur had a 4-8 record on the ATP Tour in 2019, but was 27-16 on the Challenger Tour. His best result this season came during an ATP 250 stop in New York in February when he fell to Reilly Opelka in a tight match. Schnur lost in the final of the Charlottesville Challenger earlier this month to Pospisil and also in the championship match of the Winnipeg Challenger in July to Norbert Gombos.
HOW THEY GOT HERE?
Canada reached the Davis Cup Finals after rallying past Slovakia during a tie in early February. Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime picked up victories during the fourth and fifth rubbers to help the Canadians advance.
THE FORMAT & OPPONENTS
The Davis Cup Finals are trying a new format in 2019 which sees 18 countries divided into six groups of three nations.
Canada is matched up with the U.S. and Italy in the round robin with play for the Canadians beginning on Monday against the Italians before facing the U.S. on Tuesday.
The winners of the six groups and two runner-ups (based on number of wins and set percentages) will advance into the knockout round featuring the quarterfinals on Thursday, semifinals on Saturday and final on Sunday.
Each matchup has two singles and one doubles match in a best-of-three format.
Should Canada finish atop its group, it would face the winner of Group D which has No. 4 Belgium, Australia and Colombia.
Here’s how the other groups look:
Playing for the U.S. are Taylor Fritz, Reilly Opelka, Sam Querrey, Frances Tiafoe and Jack Sock. Italy will have Matteo Berrettini, Fabio Fognini, Lorenzo Sonego, Andreas Seppi and Simone Bolelli in action.
Croatia is the defending champion after defeating France last year. The U.S. holds the most titles all-time with 32.
The top four teams in 2019 will automatically qualify for next year’s Davis Cup Finals while the other countries will have to earn their way back through a qualifier tournament.