Photo: Gyles Dias
No, that’s not a message scribbled in a forgotten holiday card but rather the blissful reality of Canadian tennis following the nation’s triumph at the ATP Cup in the first weeks of 2022.
Seeing Félix raise his arms in victory as an ecstatic Shapo runs toward him brought back a lot of memories.
In 2015, the pair returned from Spain with the Junior Davis Cup, and that’s when things got rolling for them. A sign of all that was to come and a shared dream of bringing the big cup home together one day.
Félix and Shapo, two men of their word, also said they wanted to win a Slam.
A goal? A childhood dream? A promise made by two kids?
For now, let’s talk about the title that’s already in hand—a historic victory over Spain achieved not only in two straight matches but in two straight two-setters.
In its 130-year history, Tennis Canada had never reached such heights.
“The emotions are unbelievable. There’s no better feeling than winning!” said Félix, Team Canada’s 21-year-old captain, after securing the deciding point in his match against Roberto Bautista Agut, a real warrior, at Ken Rosewall Arena (7-6 (3), 6-3).
Earlier that day, Denis one-upped Pablo Carreno Busta (6-4, 6-3).
Heading into the ATP Cup, Spain was the favourite to win with a perfect record in singles.
While it’s true that the ATP Cup doesn’t have the same illustrious history as the Davis Cup, where both Canadians played in the final against Spain two years ago, the glorious successes posted by Serbia and Russia, which won the first two editions of the Australian event, show just how tough the competition is.
Keeping up with tennis in Australia isn’t easy. It means getting up in the dead of night to catch the evening matches.
At the ATP Cup, Team Canada had to fight under pressure after getting into a tight spot from the get-go with a loss to the US (0–3).
Add to that the question mark surrounding Denis Shapovalov, who was just coming out of quarantine.
In danger of an early exit, Canada still managed to overwhelm Great Britain and Germany, including Alexander Zverev, to win the group.
In the semi against Russia, Félix demonstrated his great strength of character and prevailed in the deciding doubles showdown after dropping nine straight games and falling 4-6, 0-6 to Daniil Medvedev.
Backups Brayden Schnur and Steven Diez were also in action, since Shapovalov wasn’t at 100% when the tournament got underway.
Tennis Canada can be proud of its players on the court and in front of the mike.
“First, thank you to the city of Sydney and the government of New South Wales for putting on this event,” said Félix afterwards. “There’s been a lot of uncertainty in the last couple of months, so thank you for hosting the ATP Cup. It’s been an amazing week. Thank you to the ATP and Tennis Australia.”
Huge applause all around.
Before thanking the fans, Denis Shapovalov mentioned how well he and his countrymen had worked together.
“Thanks so much to the fans, to everyone who came out. You guys carried us a really, really long way. This Cup is not only ours: it’s for every Canadian who supported us and led us here,” said Denis.
In the tributes, let’s not forget Louis Borfiga, Guillaume Marx and Martin Laurendeau, who created the national centre in Montréal and made Canada an international tennis force to be reckoned with.
TOP 10 FOR FÉLIX
In addition to Team Canada’s success, there’s a personal win for Félix Auger-Aliassime, whose ATP Cup came with US$596,000 in prizemoney.
Mainly owing to his win over No.3 Alexander Zverev, he climbs to a career high World No.9.
Happy New Year, everyone!