MADRID — The ankle injury that forced Felix Auger-Aliassime to miss the last two weeks of his tour calendar has not quite recovered in time for him to play Canada’s opening match at the Davis Cup Finals.
Auger-Aliassime will be replaced by veteran Vasek Pospisil in Monday’s first singles match of the day. He’ll likely be up against Italy’s Fabio Fognini, ranked 12th in the ATP Tour rankings. The Canadian team is hoping Auger-Aliassime will be cleared to play by Tuesday against the United States.
"Giving him one extra day of rest is the right thing to do," Canadian Davis Cup captain Frank Dancevic said. "It’s best for him to feel comfortable on court and not push it too much."
Auger-Aliassime twisted his ankle during a pre-tournament training session just under a month ago in Vienna. Following tests and imaging, he was told to stop tennis activities for two weeks and did not get medical clearance to return to the court until last Monday. The 19-year-old played practice sets Sunday here in Madrid – a first since the injury.
"He’s been feeling better and better every day," Dancevic said.
The hope is that even if Auger-Aliassime, the World No. 21, can’t go against the Americans on Tuesday that he will be available later in the week, should the Canadians advance to the quarter-finals following pool play. He’s a scratch Monday in part because there’s a fear Auger-Aliassime could aggravate the ankle strain if he returned to match play too early.
"We’re playing it safe," Dancevic said.
Pospisil has been playing well of late after missing the first half of the season recovering from back surgery. He arrived at the Davis Cup having won back-to-back challenger titles in Las Vegas and Virginia. Those came after reaching the Round of 16 at October’s Shanghai Masters-1000, knocking off World No. 16 Diego Schwartzman in the process.
"It’s really been trying to get my weapons firing and realizing what wins me matches and working on those things," Pospisil told Sportsnet over the weekend. "Just started going on a bit of a roll and not really stressing about things, about results, and so far so good."
The 29-year-old from Vernon, B.C. hired Dancevic to be his coach back in the summer, and the Davis Cup captain believes that Pospisil has been playing at a Top-25 level over the past six weeks.
Pospisil and Fognini have split their two career meetings, with the Canadian winning the more recent one in four sets in the second round of Wimbledon in 2015.
"We’re going to play very aggressive tennis," Dancevic said. "Vasek is going to have to focus on his serve, focus on his forehand, use his weapons, try to play short points, try to play aggressive points, and get to the net when he can."
Denis Shapovalov will play Canada’s other singles match on Monday against World No. 8 Matteo Berrettini. Shapovalov and Pospisil will play doubles in the third match of the day against the Italians.