U.S. falls to Canada
in Davis Cup round-robin
Pat Mitsch | November 19, 2019
An in-form Denis Shapovalov and a gamey Vasek Pospisil each played a formidable level of tennis under the roof of La Caja Magica on Tuesday in Madrid, giving Canada its first win in 16 tries over the United States in Davis Cup, 2-1, in a rivalry that dates back to 1913.
The Canadians will surely celebrate the ‘2’ in the tie’s final score – singles victories by Pospisil over Reilly Opelka (pictured above), 7-6(5), 7-6(7), and Shapovalov over Taylor Fritz, 7-6(6), 6-3. Those wins meant Canada won Group F, after a 2-1 victory over Italy on Monday, and will advance to the knockout Quarterfinal stage of this newly formatted championship.
The Americans, however, will certainly take the ‘1’ – a doubles victory, officially scored 6-0, 6-0, no less, after the Canadian team elected to forfeit the match via walkover. ADVERTISEMENT Per tournament rules, the match, set and game victories count for the Americans toward their standings in Group F and could play an important factor in the United States’ ability to advance the Quarterfinals.
The U.S. and Italy will battle on Wednesday to possibly be one of the two top-performing second-place Group teams that earn their way to the Quarterfinal stage. The U.S. will have to win the tie to have a chance at advancing, but the match, set and games could matter as a tiebreaker.
“We're going to play our best players, for sure, in the best matchups, for sure,” said U.S. Captain Mardy Fish. “Italy is -- this is the toughest group, I think. So there's no easy match period. You never know. 2-1 could do it as well. Two extra teams there that don't win their group get to go through. So, it doesn't necessarily have to be 3-0. So we're going to go out there tomorrow and try to get the first one, and try to put ourselves in a position to do that.”
Of course, tiebreakers were the difference in Opelka’s match vs. Pospisil, the 29-year old Canadian who is playing more like his career-high singles ranking of No. 25 than his current one of No. 150. Pospisil – who also defeated Fabio Fognini on Monday to spring Canada to a 2-1 victory – overcame 28 aces from the tall, big-serving Floridian making his Davis Cup debut to win a match that was decided by the thinnest of margins.
“It's just how I play. It came down to a few points,” Opelka said. “He played really well. He played great. Thought I did my part, played well, served well, and I put myself in a position to win. He was just too good. … I think I did a good job today of just being me, playing me, playing how I've played all year. And like I said, 6 and 6, 7-5 in one breaker, [9-7] in the other. It's as close as it's going to get.”
Meanwhile, a steady performance out of the world No. 15 Shapovalov was ultimately enough to win another close match over Fritz, who was also making his Davis Cup debut. After overcoming a 2-0 deficit in a first-set tiebreaker to win it, Shapovalov broke Fritz early to go up 2-0 in the second set before serving it out.
“It’s extremely disappointing because I felt like I definitely could have won, and it would have been big for the team,” Fritz said. “The goal is always to put it on our [doubles] guys because we have the best doubles pair in the world on our team. It's really disappointing not being able to do it for them. Yeah, I definitely had chances in the tiebreaker, up a mini break twice. I definitely don't typically lose a breaker from that situation, being up a mini break twice. But I just couldn't really make it happen on my serve.”
The United States’ chances at a record-extending 33rd Davis Cup title rely on defeating Italy on Wednesday. Both world No. 8 Matteo Berrettini and No. 12 Fognini are likely to feature in singles for the Italians in the tie that begins not before 6 p.m. local time (Noon ET) and will air live on FS2 and Rakuten Sports in the U.S. The singles and doubles matchups are set one hour before play begins.
“I've practiced a lot with Fabio over the years and seen him play,” Fish said. “He's a fantastic player, you know. Hopefully, look, he's a tough out, period. Berrettini I hadn't heard of before this year. So obviously had an incredible year. He's got an unbelievable game, huge game. So he'll be tough tomorrow. They're a very good team.”