Canada easily beat Australia to claim their first-ever Davis Cup title as Denis Shapovalov and Félix Auger-Aliassime beat their opponents Thanasi Kokkinakis and Alex De Minaur in the final in Malaga.
Australia were in search of a 29th Davis Cup title, and the first since 2003, but that won’t happen as Canada ended their own 122-year wait to hold the trophy up in the air .
And while it was heartbreaking for Australia, for Canadians, it was redemption.
They were beaten 2-0 by a Rafael Nadal-led Spain in the first final of the tournament’s revamped template in 2019.
After Shapovalov played nearly flawless tennis to defeat 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 no matter how hard he tried, on the big points De Minaur just couldn’t find the goods, while Auger-Aliassime couldn’t do much as they won the deciding game 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 been able to convert his chances.
The Aussie got eight break points to Auger-Aliassime’s four but could never get the break he needed.
The rut started in the opening match when at 15-40, Auger-Aliassime got away with it. He also saved a break point in his next service game, before breaking the Australian for a 5-3 lead and serving the first set.
The second set went the same way.
De Minaur again had a break point in the Canadiens’ first service game, but it was saved before he was broken to give Auger-Aliassime a 2-1 lead.
The Aussie’s serve was broken but not his spirit and he called on a fighting courage that was reminiscent of Hewitt in his prime.
De Minaur roared onto the pitch when he held 2-3, then allowed himself three break points in the very next game as he played in defense before executing a trademark Hewitt lob. perfect backhand, to get a triple breaking point.
It seemed almost inevitable that this could be a turning point, but Auger-Aliassime saved all three with massive serves and forehands before managing to put away the match and the title with minimal fuss.
Auger-Aliassime described the win as a “dream come true” for Canada and himself.
“These guys around me – we grew up together since we were 7-8 years old in Canada dreaming of being on this stage to win these types of games and win the Davis Cup,” Auger-Aliassime said.
“It’s a great moment for me and for the country.”
Hewitt said the defeat was devastating for the Australian team.
“I’m disgusted for the boys. They put in the commitment and the hard work and did absolutely everything right all year,” Hewitt said.
“They left it all there once again; we missed out a bit, but I couldn’t be prouder – and all of Australia should be proud.”
Shapovalov beats ‘unnecessary’ Kokkinakis
His victory was set up by a sublime performance from Shapovalov in the opener as he broke in Kokkinakis’ first two service games with a powerful display of precision striking.
In what was the first-ever competitive encounter between the pair, Kokkinakis struggled to dictate the pace of the rallies, with Shapovalov dominating with the forehand.
Shapovalov, the world number 18, came into the game after losing his quarter-finals and semi-finals to Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff and Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego – giving the Italian the game with three double faults in the final game.
But there was no sign of nervousness from the 23-year-old Canadian in that rubber, responding to every unforced error with bolder jabs.
Kokkinakis finally entered the draw in game five, but gave up the first set in just 32 minutes.
The Australian, ranked world number 95 and playing only his second game of the week, showed glimpses of what he is capable of, including a sublime backhand cross at 2-5.
But each time Kokkinakis lifted, Shapovalov slapped him, responding with a sumptuous drop shot to get back on track to hold serve and claim the first 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 a more confident strike from the baseline, targeting the Canadian’s backhand.
Kokkinakis was much better in the second set, saving two break points in game seven of the set with excellent deep serves.
But a double fault gave Shapovalov the double break and a chance to serve the match.
Kokkinakis fired back immediately after a rank service game filled with savage errors from the Canadian to earn a surprising lifeline, a break he cemented with a love grip.
But the nerves dissipated the next game as Shapovalov completed the win.
If the team was gutted, no one was more so than Kookinakis, who lambasted his own performance on the big stage, in a year he won the Australian Open doubles title with Nick Kyrgios.
“Unfortunately I was practically useless in this final, but hopefully I can train hard and be available and selected next year,” he said.
“I was nervous…I’m just a little behind right now…yeah, not good enough today.
While Kokkinakis’ loss was hard for Shapovalov to bear, it was Davis Cup redemption.
The 2019 loss to Spain wasn’t the only blemish on his Davis Cup notebook, in 2017 he hit the chair umpire with a hard hit ball and was forfeited in the decisive a quarter-final with Great Britain.
This win seemed to finally put that pain behind him.
“We were in the final a few years ago…it was hard to lose and we were left with a feeling of emptiness, so we wanted this one bad,” he said.