By Martyn Herman
MADRID (Reuters) – Denis Shapovalov said he was proud to have played in Canada’s first Davis Cup final although it “sucked” to lose after he succumbed to Rafael Nadal in Madrid’s Magic Box on Sunday.
The 20-year-old was handed mission impossible after team mate Felix Auger-Aliassime was beaten by Roberto Bautista Agut and although he pushed the 19-time Grand Slam champion hard, he went down 6-3 7-6(7) as Spain sealed their sixth title.
Shapovalov was an ever-present throughout the week, winning three of his five singles matches and pairing up with Vasek Pospisil to edge a deciding doubles rubber in a thriller against Russia in Saturday’s semi-finals.
“I feel like we’ve really come really far as a team, as a nation. Definitely we’re super proud,” stylish left-hander Shapovalov, who has risen to 15th in the rankings after a late-season surge, told reporters.
“Obviously it sucks, sucks losing in the finals. But I’m super proud of everyone, everyone sitting here, super proud of the people in the background.
“We’ve put in 120 percent every single day. So it’s amazing how far we’ve been able to come.”
Shapovalov played outstandingly well in the second set as world number one Nadal finally appeared to be tiring after a marathon shift this week but he could not take the set point that arrived in the tiebreak.
“I felt like I was the better player most of the games. We had a lot of long games,” he said.
Shapovalov and Pospisil had effectively been a “two man team” until Canadian captain Frank Dancevic elected to play 19-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime on Sunday instead of 150th-ranked Pospisil who had won three of his four singles matches.
It was a gamble that did not pay off as Auger-Aliassime, who has been sidelined by an ankle injury, went down 7-6(3) 6-2.
“It was my decision to make a substitution. But I’d rather not go into details with it,” Dancevic said. “It was my call in the end. I’ll just leave it at that.”
Pospisil would likely have played the doubles rubber but with Spain already 2-0 up it was not to be.
“I found out late last night (that I wasn’t playing singles),” he said. “Of course it’s tough. Everybody wants to play. It was double tough obviously that we lost it today.
“At the end of the day, it’s a team effort, it’s a team decision. You just have to be ready to do your part.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)