Hopefully Team Canada likes the weather in Spain.
They’re going to get another dose of it in November in Malaga.
Montreal’s Félix Auger-Aliassime sent the Canadians into the knockout stage of the Davis Cup Finals with a straight-set 6-3, 6-4 win over Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic on Saturday, Sept. 17, in the final tie of the group stage.
Canada actually lost the tie to Serbia 2-1 after Vernon’s Vasek Pospisil was forced to retire during the deciding doubles match, playing alongside Alexis Galarneau, but Auger-Aliassime’s victory had already assured Canada’s place in the knockout stage regardless of an overall defeat.
Team Canada finishes the group stage with a 2-1 record.
All four members of the Canadian team participated in the tie on Saturday.
Canada’s chances to qualify for the knockout stage looked a little bit shaky earlier in the day after Gabriel Diallo was defeated in the opening singles match by Laslo Djere in straight sets, a difficult Davis Cup debut for the 20-year-old Canadian.
Canada improved to 2-0 Friday, Sept. 17, stunning the hosts Spain 2-1 in their group stage tie in Valencia.
Friday’s clash followed a similar script to Canada’s 2-1 victory over South Korea on Tuesday, Sept. 13, with the two nations splitting the singles matches before the Canadians rallied from a break down in the third set of the decisive doubles match to claim the victory.
Canada’s unlikely victory would have been impossible if not for a historic upset in the second singles match that saw Auger-Aliassime stun the newly-minted world No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz – the U.S. Open winner – in the second singles match to set up Auger-Aliassime and Pospisil’s comeback win in the doubles, 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.
Everything came down to the final match of the day, the doubles, which started less than an hour after Auger-Aliassime completed his singles match. The quick turn-around may have affected him early as the Montrealer had his serve broken in the opening game of the match.
While the Canadians settled in after that, but were unable to get anything going on the Spanish team’s serve. They never led on Spain’s serve in the opening set, which Marcel Granollers and Pedro Martinez won 6-4.
Undeterred, the Canadians continued to press in the second set, saving a couple of break points before converting their first break point of the match at 5-4 to send the entire tie to a final set.
Everything looked lost when the Spaniards broke serve midway through the deciding set, were two points away from victory at 5-3, 30-all and then served for the match at 5-4. But the Canadians refused to quit and broke Martinez as he tried to close out the win for Spain.
Pospisil then stepped up and served the Canadians to a 6-5 lead and they again applied heavy pressure to the Spaniards in a high-pressure game. Just like they did all match, Auger-Aliassime and Pospisil played their best tennis when it mattered most, breaking Granollers to seal the win for Canada.
From 3-5 down, the Canadians won the last four games of the match in a row. They were perfect on break point conversion, seizing all three opportunities they say, all of them at crucial moments in the match.
The doubles win built on what had already been a dramatic day in Valencia, highlighted by Auger-Aliassime’s shocking upset of Alcaraz to keep the Canadians alive after Pospisil lost the opening singles match.
With his win over Alcaraz, Auger-Aliassime joins a short list of Canadians to defeat the current world No. 1. That list includes Daniel Nestor, who also did it in Davis Cup action beating Stefan Edberg in 1992, and his current Davis Cup teammate Pospisil, who beat Andy Murray in 2017.
Canada needed a win from Auger-Aliassime after Pospisil was beaten in three sets by Spain’s Roberto Bautista Agut in the opening singles match.
Pospisil took the opening set but the Spaniard, buoyed by the support of the home crowd in Valencia, dug in and proved too consistent for his Canadian opponent, grinding out a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win.
Consistency was the name of the game for Bautista Agut, who was massively outgunned by Pospisil but managed to play a cleaner match. The Canadian ripped 31 winners, almost triple his opponent’s 13, but Bautista Agut committed a mere 13 unforced errors while Pospisil had 33.
Unlike his first match against Korea, Pospisil came out serving well, opening with a love hold and facing minimal danger in service games through most of the opening set. Midway through the first, the door opened on return for the Canadian as a string of strong returns gave him a love-40 advantage and he closed out the break with a smash.
Serving out the set was the first challenge Pospisil faced as he double-faulted to go down 15-40. However, Bautista Agut missed passing shots on both break points which allowed the Canadian to escape the danger and take the opening set.
Bautista Agut quickly turned the table in the second set, going ahead 15-40 for the second Pospisil service game in a row. The Canadian once again saved both, but this time a strong passing shot from the Spaniard set up a third break point and Pospisil sent a forehand long to go down a break.
Despite applying pressure to his opponent’s serve several times in the second, Pospisil was unable to create a break-back point as Bautista Agut forced a deciding set.
Pospisil needed a medical timeout early in the third set but nearly turned things around when he held a break point in the fourth game. He sent a backhand long and paid for it in the next game when Bautista Agut broke him to go up 3-2.
Despite throwing everything he had left at the Spaniard, Pospisil did not have an answer for Bautista Agut’s consistency. The Spaniard broke again as the Canadian serve to stay alive, clinching the first point for the home team.
Canada clinched a spot in the knockout stage as a result of the ties in Spain. The knockout stage will take place Nov. 22-27 in Malaga, Spain.