By Martyn Herman
MADRID (Reuters) – Canadian youngster Denis Shapovalov described the revamped Davis Cup format as something players have never experienced before after playing his part in victory over Italy.
The 20-year-old, who was defaulted in a 2017 Davis Cup tie after he accidentally struck the umpire with a ball, was involved in the match of the day on Monday when he beat Italian Matteo Berrettini in three sets on Court 2.
Critics of the new format, which sees 18 nations playing in Madrid for a week to decide the Davis Cup champions, fear the uniquely partisan atmosphere of the “home and away” ties will be lost. But Shapovalov was roared on by a large Canadian contingent while Berrettini also enjoyed vocal backing.
“I love the atmosphere. I think at a time like this, the end of the season, you’re not looking forward to playing events and stuff like this,” Shapovalov said.
“But to play the Davis Cup and you walk out and the atmosphere is like this and it is so hectic. It’s like nothing we have experienced. It’s unbelievable.”
Several times play was held up as the umpire tried to quieten the fans, which in itself was music to the ears of the organisers, the ITF and Kosmos, as the last thing they want is for ties to feel like regular ATP Tour events.
Shapovalov even goaded the Italians fans at one point after hitting an ace, cupping his ear to the crowd.
“They were talking a lot in between my first and second serves, and clapping on double (faults),” Shapovalov said. “I was getting into it, of course, in the heat of the moment.
“I felt like both sides of the fans really got into the match.”
Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil, who had earlier stunned Fabio Fognini, lost the doubles which finished past midnight local time. With ties, involving two singles and one doubles rubber starting in the evening, late nights will be a theme of the week, according to Canada captain Frank Dancevic.
Canada face the United States in their second Group F match later on Tuesday with a win assuring them of a place in the quarter-finals. That tie starts at 6pm local time.
“I think it’s absurd that it’s so late,” he said. “ We might see you here at 3 am tomorrow,” he said.
Organisers said 12,114 people watched the three ties on Monday and say Tuesday’s evening group clash between Spain and Russia is a 12,000-seat sell-out.
(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)