Canada’s Golden Generation Delivered A Special Moment Winning First Davis Cup

Canada winner of the 2022 Davis Cup (photo: Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Kosmos Tennis)

MÁLAGA/WASHINGTON, November 28, 2022 (by Michael Dickens)

Canada’s arrival as a men’s tennis power began to take shape at the start of the 2022 season. After winning the ATP Cup in January, Canada closed with a flourish by winning its first Davis Cup title that capped the Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals in Málaga, Spain.

Throughout their run to lifting the Davis Cup after beating Australia in Sunday’s final, this Golden Generation of Canadians proved there’s no “i” in team. However, like they did after defeating Spain at the ATP Cup in January, once again, it was 23-year-old Denis Shapovalov and 22-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime, both ranked in the Top 20, who stepped up and grabbed the spotlight.

Their back-to-back singles victories over Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis and Alex de Minaur put Canada in the winner’s circle of the world championship of tennis. After becoming the 16th country to win a Davis Cup final with their 2-0 triumph over Australia, they soaked in the moment, both literally as well as figuratively.

Not to be forgotten among the headline performances generated by Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime was the valuable contribution by the team’s most veteran player, Vasek Pospisil, 32, who partnered Shapovalov for Canada’s deciding doubles victory over Germany in the quarterfinal round and teamed with Auger-Aliassime to defeat Italy in the semifinals. Team Canada also included 23-year-old Alexis Galarneau and 21-year-old Gabriel Diallo, both seasoned collegiate players in the United States. The team was captained by Frank Dancevic, 38, who once was Canada’s top-ranked singles player.

After Auger-Aliassime delivered the Davis Cup-clinching championship point for Canada in a 6-3, 6-4 win over de Minaur, he was the first player interviewed on court. With a Canadian flag draped around his shoulders – and surrounded by his teammates – Auger-Aliassime said: “The emotions are tough to describe. All of us here, we’ve dreamt of this moment. These guys around me – except Vasek, he’s a little bit older than me – we grew up together from the ages of 7-8 years old back in Canada dreaming about being on this stage winning these types of matches, winning the Davis Cup. So, it’s really a dream come true for me personally, and I think for all the team.

“That’s what we play for, that’s what sport is for, tennis is for. It was a great moment for myself and for the country.”

In 2015, Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov helped lead Canada to its first Junior Davis Cup title, and they were the nucleus of the Canadian team that lost to Spain in the 2019 Davis Cup final. These two familiar faces of Canadian men’s tennis have always felt a sense of belief in themselves and others who have represented their country.

“We all developed as players individually. We got better and better over the years, and I felt like, us getting better, were more ready for those types of moments,” Auger-Aliassime said. “But it’s never easy to pull through. We had a great team in front of us. … I’m happy that we were able to get the first Davis Cup with this group.”

A teary-eyed Pospisil, part of an earlier generation of Canadians that included Dancevic, Daniel Nestor and Milos Raonic, said: “Playing for your country and for your teammates is something so special. We’ve been dreaming about this for several years – especially the last four or five years. We knew we could do it. To be able to be here as world champions, I mean, I’m speechless.

“We have a very incredible team – the dynamic, everybody – we all get along so well. It’s all so special for us to be able to cheer together and to bring the Cup back to Canada.

“These guys are not kids anymore, that’s for sure – not after today. They’ve been crushing it. There’s unbelievable team energy. You can’t win this championship without having incredible team chemistry. With everyone putting their egos aside and going forward as one unit to win – you can’t be selfish – everyone represents exactly that. They’re amazing guys.”

Canada’s first Davis Cup title came 109 years after playing in their first Davis Cup tournament in 1913. It certainly won’t be their last. Ironically, when the Canadians fell to the Netherlands 4-0 in qualifying play last March, it was the first time Canada had failed to reach the Davis Cup by Rakuten Finals since the new format was adopted in 2019. It was expected that Canada would play in the World Group I Playoff in September, with an opportunity to advance to the 2023 Davis Cup Qualifiers. Instead, when Russia was banned from competing in the Davis Cup Final Eight after invading Ukraine, Canada received a second chance as a lucky loser. They made the most of their new lifeline.

Shapovalov, who took his lumps during a pair of Final Eight losses earlier in the week – losing to both Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany and Lorenzo Sonego of Italy – came through solidly against Kokkinakis, winning 6-2, 6-4. After jumping out to a quick 4-0 lead in the opening set, there was no holding him back.

Before the trophy ceremony, Shapovalov was asked how many times he had thought about winning the Davis Cup. He said: “I think too many times. Obviously, from juniors, it was our dream watching Vasek play, watching Milos [Raonic] and Nesty [Daniel Nestor] perform at the Davis Cup and taking Canada to new lengths. We wanted to grow up and be part of the team and try to help the country win the first title.

“Everything is just so surreal right now. We were in the finals a couple of years ago. It was a tough one to lose. At that time, I thought we did everything we could, but we were left with an empty feeling at the end. We really wanted it badly. Like Vasek said, it’s such a team effort. Everyone is putting in 120 percent every day. It’s just amazing. … It’s been very special.”

Afterward, Raonic, who missed the 2022 season due to injury, shared his congratulations via social media. He lauded the Davis Cup champions by calling their achievement “The greatest moment in Canadian tennis.”

By the numbers

Felix Auger-Aliassime‘s win over Alex de Minaur was his 60th singles victory of the season. He’s the first Canadian to eclipse 60 wins in a single season. The previous high for a Canadian man was 52 set by Milos Raonic set in 2016.

“Quotable …”

“This is an historic moment. We’ve never won this title in the past. It’s the first time for us. It’s an incredible feeling being here with these guys. I’m so proud of this team, proud of the effort they put in. This week, everybody left their souls out on the court. The team spirit has been incredible.

“We have an incredible support staff who helped us through the week – and an amazing cheering section, who has been pushing our guys all week. Thank youfor being here. You’ve been incredible. Just being part of this championship and winning everything is an incredible feeling, an incredible moment right now for us in Canadian history.”

Frank Dancevic, Canada team captain, describing the thrill of victory during an on-court interview Sunday after his team won its first Davis Cup title.