By Martyn Herman
MADRID (Reuters) – Denis Shapovalov described it as “ridiculous” and captain Frank Dancevic admitted he almost blacked out as Canada beat Russia to reach their first Davis Cup final on Saturday.
The 20-year-old Shapovalov teamed up with Vasek Pospisil to win the deciding doubles rubber against Russian duo Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov and hand Canada a 2-1 victory.
They will meet either Spain or Britain in the final.
For Shapovalov it was an especially sweet moment as the Davis Cup has not always been kind to him. In 2017, in his second tie, he was defaulted from a World Group tie against Britain after accidentally striking the umpire with a ball.
That was all forgotten though as he and the 29-year-old Pospisil, who is ranked 150 after missing six months this year because of back surgery, held their nerve after the tie boiled down to a third-set tiebreak.
After winning 6-3 3-6 7-6(5) the two Canadians danced for joy as several hundred Canadian fans roared their approval.
“I don’t think any of us expected that we could get this far,” Shapovalov said. “We knew we have a great team. But you have to have a little bit of luck on your side and just play some ridiculous tennis and play at a ridiculous level.
“I think we just absolutely played ridiculous tennis. I’m super-stoked to be in the final. It’s one of my dreams, you know, to play in the Davis Cup final.”
With Milos Raonic injured and another of Canada’s young guns, Felix Auger-Aliassime, ranked 21, unable to play a match so far this week, Dancevic has had to rely on a two-man team.
But how they have delivered. Pospisil won three successive singles matches against Italy, U.S. and Australia en route to the semi-finals and he and Shapovalov won the decisive doubles rubber against Australia.
Pospisil lost 6-4 6-4 to Rublev on Saturday but left-hander Shapovalov, whose parents are Russian, stepped up to level the tie, showing great tenacity to beat Khachanov 6-4 4-6 6-4.
After the latest thrilling tie at the revamped Davis Cup, Dancevic said it had been hard to sit on the chair and watch.
“When I was sitting there on match point, my heart was beating so fast, I was actually starting to black out,” he said. “I was trying to control my breathing and just telling myself to breath slowly, stay calm, we’re close to this.
“It’s definitely an emotional rollercoaster, sitting on the chair. But at the day it’s an amazing feeling having your guys perform like this and put 110 percent on the court.”
Pospisil, who moved fourth on his country’s all-time list with 22 match wins in Davis Cup ties, said it was another special day for Canadian tennis in a year which saw teenager Bianca Andreescu become the country’s first Grand Slam champion by beating Serena Williams at the U.S. Open.
“It’s kind of like building, building, building, and every match feels that much more emotional,” he said.
“It’s pretty incredible to make the final, first time in history for Canada. To do it the way it happened was pretty special to be a part of.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; editing by Tony Lawrence)