Canada Wins First Davis Cup Title As Its Golden Generation Comes Of Age

Team Canada, 2022 Davis Cup champions (photo: Pedro Salado/ Quality Sport Images / Kosmos Tennis)

MÁLAGA/WASHINGTON, November 27, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Canada’s golden generation came of age Sunday afternoon in Málaga, Spain. The Canadian’s amazing team spirit willed its way to a first Davis Cup title 109 years after playing in their first Davis Cup tournament in 1913.

In back of a pair of straight-set singles victories by Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime, both in straight sets, Canada defeated Australia 2-0 to capture the 2022 Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals title before 9,522 fans that filled Palacio de Deportes Jose Maria Martin Carpena. It capped an amazing and inspiring week in which the Canadians beat Germany 2-1 in the quarterfinal round, Italy 2-1 in the semifinals, and Australia 2-0 in the final.

Auger-Aliassime won all eight of the sets he competed in in Málaga – six in singles and two in doubles. It was just Canada’s second Davis Cup tie victory over Australia in 11 tries – but it was well worth the wait. The Canadians are the 16th nation to win the Davis Cup in the event’s 122-year history. Australia, which was competing in its first Davis Cup final in 19 years, was in search of its 29th career Davis Cup title. It will have to wait another year.

“The emotions are tough to describe,” said the 22-year-old Auger-Aliassime, happy and proud, in a post-match interview with a Canadian flag draped around his shoulders and surrounded by his teammates. “Denis and I grew up together, dreaming of these types of stage, dreaming of winning the Davis Cup. It’s a great moment for myself and for the country.”

Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov became the ninth and 10th players to have won both the Junior Davis Cup and the Davis Cup titles. The duo guided Canada to its first victory at the under-16 team event in 2015 at Madrid. Seven years later, they delivered for Canada on the sport’s biggest stage. This year’s event drew 61,916 spectators to the port city of Málaga in southern Spain’s Costa del Sol.

As the Davis Cup final took shape, Shapovalov, who lost a grueling three-hour, 15-minute opening rubber to Lorenzo Sonego of Italy on Saturday, jumped out to a double-break 4-0 lead against Thanasi Kokkinakis – and never let up. Shapovalov broke out of a two-match slump and gave Canada a 1-0 lead with his inspiring 6-2, 6-4 win, in an hour and 29 minutes.

Looking refreshed and playing determined from start to finish, Shapovalov closed out the opening set 6-2 by playing solidly against his Australian foe. He won 80 percent (12 of 15) of his first-serve points and struck 10 winners.

Soon, Shapovalov went ahead by a set and a break after Kokkinakis killed an 11-shot rally by hitting a forehand wide of its intended mark. The Canadian No. 2 consolidated the break for a 3-1 lead after saving three break points during a lengthy 22-point tussle and remained steady for the remainder of the rubber. Shapovalov extended his lead to a double break at 5-2 after cashing in on his third break point of the seventh game when Kokkinakis committed his fourth double fault. Needing just to hold serve, Shapovalov was broken for the first time after he double-faulted for the fifth time. However, it was only a temporary wobble.

Following a love hold by the Australian, Shapovalov closed out the rubber with a service winner – his 28th winner of the match – and raised a clenched fist in celebration after outpointing Kokkinakis 68-53. Shapovalov had put the Canadians ahead 1-0, something which he had been unable to do in his two previous tries this week in Málaga.

“Just getting the win is never easy,” Shapovalov said in his on-court interview following his victory. “Obviously, [with] two tough losses, I felt like I was playing good tennis. Just wasn’t able to get over the hurdle. Today going in, it definitely wasn’t easy, but I’m very happy with my performance. Thanasi is a great player, a super-tough competitor. I’m really happy I got the win.”

As the second rubber unfolded between Auger-Aliassime of Canada and Australia’s Alex de Minaur, the Aussie knew he needed to produce the heroics he had in his previous two matches – triumphs against the Netherlands and Croatia – to force a decider in doubles. Meanwhile, Auger-Aliassime arrived with the confidence of having won all six sets he has played in so far this week, in a pair of singles wins over Germany and Italy and a decisive doubles victory over the Italians. He had also been in the thick of a Davis Cup final, against Spain, three years ago. So, his experience meant a lot.

On serve through the first seven games, Auger-Aliassime found his rhythm and range in breaking de Minaur with an overhead smash winner – his ninth winner of the set – to go ahead 5-3. The Canadian No. 1 consolidated the break and won the 48-minute first serve with his third ace. Although Auger-Aliassime put only 47 percent of his first serves in play, he was effective in winning points on his second serve – 13 of 17. It put Canada just a set away from winning their first Davis Cup title in just their second final.

Next, Auger-Aliassime broke de Minaur with a fourth-shot forehand winner – his 15th overall – that gave him a lead of a set and a break. Auger-Aliassime held solidly with his fifth ace to consolidate the break. Soon, Auger-Aliassime fought off three break points in his next service game – for a total of eight on the day – and held with a beautiful, down-the-line forehand winner that capped a 13-shot rally for a 4-2 lead. Then, after an exchange of service holds, Auger-Aliassime lined up for an historic moment – to lift Canada to its first Davis Cup title – and delivered a well-deserved 6-3, 6-4 victory in an hour and 41 minutes. It was Auger-Aliassime’s 60th win of 2022.

After achieving championship point, Auger-Aliassime fell to the ground and was smothered by his red and white clad teammates plus team captain Frank Dancevic. Soon, Canada would be lifting the Davis Cup trophy together for the first time.

During their on-court interviews before the trophy ceremony, the 23-year-old Shapovalov put his country’s achievement into perspective. He said: “From when we were juniors, watching Vasek [Pospisil], Milos Raonic and Daniel Nestor play Davis Cup, we wanted to do the same, and maybe even to win it one day.

“It was tough to lose in 2019, it was an empty feeling and we wanted it badly this time,” he added.

Meanwhile, for Vasek Pospisil, who at age 32 was his team’s elder statesman and a steady presence in doubles all week, winning the Davis Cup for the first time was truly an emotional moment.

“We’ve been dreaming about this for several years,” he said.

“To be here as world champions, I’m speechless. These guys are not kids any more. They’ve been crushing it. You can’t win this event without tremendous team chemistry, going forwards as one unit, and all these guys represent exactly that.”

By the numbers

• Sunday’s Davis Cup final was the 11th Davis Cup meeting between Australia and Canada, but just their second since 1964. The two nations met nine times between 1914 and 1964, with Australia winning all nine ties. They renewed their rivalry at the 2019 Davis Cup Finals in Madrid, when Canada recorded its first Davis Cup victory over Australia in the quarterfinals.

• This was the first Davis Cup final not to feature a European nation since 1990, when the United States defeated Australia 3-2 at St. Petersburg, Florida.

• Player prize money for the winning team is $2,500,000 (U.S. Dollars), while the players on the team finishing as runners-up will receive $1,500,000. Total prize money for the 2022 Davis Cup Finals (including both the Finals group stage in September and the Final Eight this week) is $21,000,000 – with $14,000,000 paid directly to players and $7,000,000 paid to national associations.

“Quotable …”

“It helped me being in the final before [against Spain in 2019]. Last time it was all kind of new, we were relieved just to be there, but today we’re very much going for the trophy.”

– Denis Shapovalov of Team Canada, following his singles win over Thanasi Kokkinakis of Australia, which gave the Canadians an early 1-0 lead.

Canada 2, Australia 0

Final – At Palacio de Deportes Jose Maria Martin Carpena, Málaga, Spain

• Denis Shapovalov (CAN) def. Thanasi Kokkinakis (AUS), 6-2, 6-4.

• Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) def. Alex de Minaur (AUS), 6-3, 6-4.

• Felix Auger-Aliassime and Vasek Pospisil (CAN) vs. Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson (AUS), not played.