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Canada topples Russia to reach ATP Cup final against Spain
Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov won a thrilling doubles rubber to oust the defending champions.
Published Jan 08, 2022
Top 15 stars Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov have taken Canada all the way to their first ATP Cup final, defeating defending champions Russia, 2-1, in a semifinal clash that went right down to the wire in Sydney on Saturday.
“We just kept fighting,” Shapovalov said after he and Auger-Aliassime’s 4-6, 7-5, 10-7 deciding doubles victory over Daniil Medvedev and Roman Safiullin.
“We had great team chemistry, team spirit—it helped us a lot.”
The No. 14-ranked Shapovalov put Canada ahead 1-0 in the tie to start the day, outlasting No. 167-ranked Safiullin—Russia’s “secret weapon”—in three, 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.
The second singles match looked like it could be a close one too, with little between Medvedev and Auger-Aliassime in the first seven games. But from his 3-4 service game it was all Medvedev—the No. 2-ranked Russian reeled off nine games in a row to completely run away with it, 6-4, 6-0, finishing off the 68-minute victory over the No. 11-ranked Canadian with a huge forehand winner into the corner.
“I mean, it was really tough for me until 4-3 in the first. I actually thought, ‘How can I actually break his serve?’ He was just serving aces, playing good,” Medvedev said. “I knew I just had to stay in the match and do what I can, do what’s possible against his big game. He definitely started to play a little bit worse, and I started to use it.”
After a short break the same four players walked out for the deciding doubles rubber, and for most of the match it looked as though the Russians would sneak it out—they won the first set, 6-4, clinching it with a Medvedev ace, and when they stepped up to serve at 5-6 in the second set they hadn’t been broken all day, seemingly headed for a tie-break and a chance to close it out in straight sets.
But Canada pounced, getting their first break of the match to take the second set, 7-5, and after building a 4-2 lead in the match tie-break they were never behind again, eventually closing it out with a perfect short volley winner from Shapovalov.
“Felix did an amazing job,” Shapovalov said. “I had a little bit of a slow start, had trouble returning—we had to fight. Felix played an unbelievable game to break.”
“I had to stay positive,” Auger-Aliassime said. “It was tough, especially the second set, and the way it went in singles—Denis helped me push myself. To be able to come back and win was a team effort. That’s what the ATP Cup is about, you can still win after being 1-all after the singles. We’re really thrilled, the whole team.”
Awaiting Canada in the final will be Spain, who beat Poland in the other semifinal tie on Friday. The Spaniards, who were runners-up to Serbia in 2020, are led this year by Top 20 players Roberto Bautista Agut and Pablo Carreno Busta.
“It’s been one of the best weeks for me,” Shapovalov added.
“We’ll try to make it better.”