Canada has easily defeated Australia to claim their first ever Davis Cup title as Denis Shapovalov and Félix Auger-Aliassime powered past opponents Thanasi Kokkinakis and Alex De Minaur at the final in Malaga.
Australia was looking for a 29th Davis Cup title, and first since 2003 but it would not eventuate as Canada ended their own 122—year wait to hold the trophy aloft.
And while it was heartbreak for Australia, for the Canadians it was redemption.
They were humbled 2-0 by a Rafael Nadal-led Spain in the first final of the tournament’s revamped model in 2019.
After Shapovalov played near faultless tennis to overpower Kokkinakis 6-2, 6-4 in the opener it was left to De Minaur to try and emulate some of the heroics Australia captain Lleyton Hewitt was famous for during his career.
But try as he might, on the big points De Minaur just couldn’t come up with the goods, whereas Auger-Aliassime could do little wrong as he won the deciding rubber 6-3, 6-4.
A break in each set was enough for the rising Canadian star but the match could have been so different if De Minaur had have been able to convert his opportunities.
The Australian earned eight break points to Auger-Aliassime’s four but could never get the break he needed.
The rut started in the opening game when at 15-40, Auger-Aliassime served his way out of trouble. He saved a break point in his next service game too, before breaking the Australian for a 5-3 lead and serving out the opening set.
The second set played out in similar fashion.
De Minaur again had break point in the Canadian’s opening service game but it was saved before he was broken to put Auger-Aliassime up 2-1.
The Australian’s serve was broken but not his spirit and he summoned fighting courage that was reminiscent of Hewitt in his heyday.
De Minaur roared on court when he held for 2-3 and then gave himself three break points in the very next game as he played defence before executing a trademark of Hewitt, a perfect backhand lob, to get triple-break-point.
It seemed almost inevitable that this could be a turning point but Auger-Aliassime saved all three with some massive serves and forehands before managing to put away the match and the title with minimal fuss.
Auger-Aliassime described the victory as a “dream come true” for Canada and himself.
“These guys around me — we grew up together from the ages of 7-8 years old back in Canada dreaming about being on this stage of winning these types of matches and winning Davis Cup,” Auger-Aliassime said.
“It’s a great moment for myself and the country.”
Hewitt said the loss was devastating for the Australian team.
“I’m gutted for the boys. They’ve put in the commitment and the work and done absolutely everything right all year,” Hewitt said.
“They left it all out there once again; we came up slightly short, but I couldn’t be prouder — and all of Australia should be proud.”
Shapovalov thrashes ‘useless’ Kokkinakis
His victory was set up by a sublime performance from Shapovalov in the opening rubber as he broke in Kokkinakis’s opening two service games with a powerful display of precision hitting.
In what was the first ever competitive meeting between the pair, Kokkinakis struggled to dictate pace in the rallies, with Shapovalov dominating with the forehand.
Shapovalov, the world number 18, was coming into the match having lost both his quarter final and semi-final rubbers against Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany and Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego — handing the Italian the match with three double faults in the final game.
But there was no sign of any jitters from the 23-year-old Canadian in this rubber, responding to every unforced error with more daring shots.
Kokkinakis finally got on the board in the fifth game, but surrendered the first set in just 32 minutes.
The Australian, ranked number 95 in the world and playing in just his second match of the week, showed glimpses of what he is capable of, including a sublime cross-court backhand winner at 2-5 down.
But every time Kokkinakis lifted, Shapovalov slapped him back down, responding with a sumptuous drop shot to set himself back on course to hold serve and claim the opening set.
Shapovalov broke again in the third game of the second set, but Kokkinakis earned three break points in a marathon fourth game thanks to more confident hitting from the baseline, targeting the Canadian’s backhand.
Kokkinakis was far better in the second set, saving two break points in the seventh game of the set with some excellent deep serves.
But a double fault handed Shapovalov the double-break and a chance to serve out the match.
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Kokkinakis hit back immediately off the back of a rank service game filled with wild errors from the Canadian to earn a surprising lifeline, a break-back he consolidated with a hold to love.
But the nerves dissipated the very next game as Shapovalov completed the victory.
If the team was gutted, no one was more so than Kookinakis, who lambasted his own performance on the big stage, in a year where he won the Australian Open doubles title with Nick Kyrgios.
“Unfortunately, I was pretty much useless in this finals but hopefully I can train hard and be available and get selected next year,” he said.
“I was nervous … I’m just a bit off the pace at the moment … yeah, not good enough today.
While the loss for Kokkinakis was hard to stomach for Shapovalov it was Davis Cup redemption.
The loss in 2019 to Spain was not the only blot on his Davis Cup copybook, in 2017, he hit the chair umpire with a violently struck ball and saw himself defaulted in the deciding rubber of a quarterfinal with Great Britain.
This victory seemed to finally put that pain behind him.
“We were in the finals a couple of years ago … that was a tough one to lose and we got left with an empty feeling, so we wanted this one bad,” he said.