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From 'Survival Mode' To World Champions: Inside Canada's ATP Cup Victory

  • Posted: Jan 09, 2022

First it was unclear if Canada could field a team at the ATP Cup. Then it appeared the Canadians would be eliminated from semi-final contention before their third Group C tie. But on Sunday evening, Felix Auger-Aliassime capped a dream week for his country by clinching the third edition of the team event.

“Being so close to being out of the group and then coming out, you’re kind of in that survival mode and I think we just carried that all the way through to today,” Auger-Aliassime said. “As the week went on I think we played some really good matches and we got more and more belief, but I think the trust and the belief never went away the whole week for everybody on the team.”

On 26 December Canada’s No. 2 singles player, Denis Shapovalov, announced he had tested positive for Covid-19 and had to quarantine. It was unclear if the 22-year-old would be able to partake in the ATP Cup. Steven Diez was back home awaiting a negative test himself, and he did not arrive in Sydney until 31 December.

Although the Canadians were able to compete, it did not start well. They lost their first four matches and if the United States defeated Great Britain in their third Group C tie, Canada would not have had a chance at reaching the knockout stages. But all the scenarios went in their favour, giving them an opportunity.

“So many things still had to go our way. We needed the teams to all kind of split the ties. It was super tough for us going down 3-0 the first day so we needed [the] U.S. to lose, and they did in a crazy match,” Shapovalov said. “[It] just seemed like the pieces were all kind of falling into place.”

Once into the last four, Canada faced a tough test against defending champion Russia, led by World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev. Medvedev and Roman Safiullin appeared in control of the deciding doubles early in the second set, but once again the Canadians refused to go away.

After battling through a Match Tie-break to reach the championship tie, the Canadians produced their best performance of the week against Spain. Roberto Bautista Agut and Pablo Carreno Busta are as tough as they come, but Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov had too much firepower and were relentless in pursuit of the crown.

Canadians are champions of the world.

“Really, I hope this inspires kids and people back home in these tough times right now,” Auger-Aliassime said. “A lot of provinces have been going down into lockdown again, not going out much. And I hope this just puts a smile on their face and gives them a little bit of support and hope and then inspires a next generation.”

Steven Diez and Brayden Schnur were an enthusiastic presence in Canada’s Team Zone throughout the competition. They both gave all the credit to Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov.

“My back’s pretty sore from carrying this team the past eight days,” Schnur joked. “It’s a privilege to be alongside and be team members with these two guys here, and obviously Steven as well. For me it’s just a privilege and to see them working so hard, they’re getting everything they deserve.”

“Being here today with this trophy and this amazing team, I think it’s something amazing,” Diez said. “I’ll be really grateful to these two, they’re the present and the future, and they’ll probably win this trophy a few more times for sure.”

But this run will be remembered as the event in which two childhood friends, Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov, showed their country what is possible. They were once boys with a dream, and now they have brought Canada to the forefront of world tennis.

“I really hope it was able to be seen in Canada, I’m sure it was. And I hope it just gives belief, more belief to everyone there that we are a summer sport country as well. I just hope a lot of kids will start picking up racquets after seeing us competing,” Shapovalov said. “It’s pretty special, I think, what specifically me and Felix have, playing since we’ve been little, little children at five or six years old, all the way up to here. Just competing alongside and being able to win titles like this together, it’s something truly special.”

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Felix Fantastic To Clinch ATP Cup For Canada

  • Posted: Jan 09, 2022

Felix Auger-Aliassime clinched the ATP Cup title for Canada on Sunday evening with a 7-6(3), 6-3 victory against Roberto Bautista Agut to give his country a 2-0 win against Spain.

Canada lost its first four matches of this year’s competition and could have been eliminated before playing the third Group C tie. But thanks to favourable results, the Canadians still had a chance and they seized their opportunity.

Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov won a deciding doubles against Russia on Saturday to knock out the defending champions. And with the trophy on the line, they played their best tennis to defeat two-time finalists Spain.

“The emotions are unbelievable. There’s no better feeling than winning. We left everything out there. We came back from far in this competition, losing our first four matches. But we never stopped believing,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I think that’s very important. We trust each other to the highest level. Denis and I, everybody in the team — Brayden [Schnur] played in singles, Steven [Diez] played in doubles and they’ve been supporting us all week. They’ve got a tournament next week, but they’re here every day ready to practise, ready to support us.

“All their egos are aside and we really trusted each other along the way and it came down to the perfect result. I’m super thrilled for everybody in the whole team and myself, of course.”

Auger-Aliassime, who was also his country’s captain, suffered a disappointing defeat at No. 1 singles on Saturday against Daniil Medvedev, losing the final nine games of that match. But the 21-year-old showed no ill effects from that loss, playing with controlled aggression to down the always tough Bautista Agut in two hours and 10 minutes.

Felix double faulted on his first match point. But the Canadian quickly calmed his nerves and elicited a backhand return error on the next point. Shapovalov and the rest of Team Canada quickly rushed the court to celebrate.

Bautista Agut is one of the toughest opponents for everyone on the ATP Tour. The Spaniard is a baseline machine who rarely misses and takes advantage of the smallest openings. But his issue was that Auger-Aliassime never cracked.

Felix Auger-Aliassime
Photo Credit: Peter Staples/ATP Tour
In the first-set tie-break, the World No. 11 hit a sensational forehand passing shot to earn an early mini-break, and he added another with a big forehand from the middle of the court. The Canadian carried that lead through the rest of the tie-break to seal the opener.

With the trophy drawing closer, Auger-Aliassime maintained his composure. Felix saved 10 of the 11 break points he faced and struck 15 aces in his triumph.

“I think the points just come and you try to really dig deep, think about the good things and think how you’re going to win that point. Just on and on and on, I was able to do it every time,” Auger-Aliassime said. “Sometimes it’s a bit of luck and today also I was good in the important moments, so that’s always important. Just tried to stay positive, also.”

Earlier in the tie, Shapovalov captured the No. 2 singles match with a 6-4, 6-3 win against Pablo Carreno Busta, who had led their ATP Head2Head series 4-1.

“Couldn’t have wished for a better start. If it wasn’t for Denis the past two days, we wouldn’t be here right now. I’d like to congratulate him. He’s been unbelievable,” Auger-Aliassime said. “He lost the past few times against Carreno and today he won in straight sets. Not with ease, but the way he can play he won in a good way, so honestly all credit to him.”

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Nadal Soars To Melbourne Title

  • Posted: Jan 09, 2022

Rafael Nadal marked his return to the ATP Tour in style Sunday, downing American qualifier Maxime Cressy 7-6(6), 6-3 to lift the Melbourne Summer Set trophy.

The Spaniard was playing for the first time since August this week after a foot injury curtailed his 2021 season. However, the World No. 6 showed little sign of rustiness in Melbourne, not dropping a set at the ATP 250 event to earn his 89th tour-level crown.

“I want to thank all the organisation here,” Nadal said during the trophy ceremony. “I feel privileged and a very lucky guy to be here again. I am coming back from some challenging moments in terms of injuries, so I can’t be happier. It means a lot to be back and with a trophy in my hands.”

In an entertaining match, Cressy attacked Nadal with his high-flying serve-and-volley game, but the Spaniard returned well throughout and showed great fight. The 35-year-old saved a set point in the first-set tie-break and rallied from a break down in the second set, before eventually triumphing after one hour and 44 minutes.

“This court has always been very, very special for me,” Nadal said. “The Rod Laver Arena is very, very special for everyone and it is more special because of you guys. You guys are a great crowd and I can’t thank you enough.”

Nadal was competing in his first final on Australian soil since losing to Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open championship match in 2019. With his victory, the top seed has now continued his run of clinching at least one tour-level title every year since 2004.

In their first ATP Head2Head meeting, little separated the pair in the first set, with Cressy raising his level in the key moments as he saved all five break points he faced to force a tie-break. Nadal looked to penetrate from the baseline with his heavy topspin forehand and tried to find the toes of Cressy on return, but the World No. 112 held firm and moved to set point at 6/5 in the tie-break.

However, he was unable to find another first serve in the set, with Nadal capitalising to move ahead. The Spaniard then rallied from a break down in the second set, firing seven aces in the set to secure his victory.

Cressy was competing in his first tour-level final after standout wins over second seed Reilly Opelka, against whome he saved two match points, and third seed Grigor Dimitrov. Cressy will rise into the Top 100 of the ATP Rankings for the first time on Monday following his dream run in Melbourne.

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Monfils Fends Off Khachanov To Clinch Adelaide Title

  • Posted: Jan 09, 2022

Top seed Gael Monfils captured his 11th ATP Tour title Sunday, overcoming Karen Khachanov 6-4, 6-4 in the Adelaide International 1 final to begin his season in perfect fashion.

The Frenchman, who was competing in his first Australian tour-level championship match, played with flair and demonstrated great agility throughout against Khachanov, closing the net effectively and covering the court well to triumph after 80 minutes.

“I want to say thanks to my team,” Monfils said during the trophy ceremony. “We have had some tough moments, we lost a little bit of faith but we came back strong from July last year. It is amazing to play in front of you guys, to play in front of a full crowd with a good spirit and atmosphere, this is amazing.”

Monfils did not drop a set all week in Adelaide and now leads the Russian 1-0 in their ATP Head2Head series. With his victory, it is the World No. 21’s first tour-level title since February 2020 (Rotterdam).

“It is a great tournament,” Monfils added. “I have been training here since 2009. I know the place very well, I love Adelaide and am very happy to win the title here.”

In a tight first set, both players looked to dictate on their forehands and outmanoeuvre each other in front of a lively crowd in Adelaide. After fending off two break points at 2-2, Monfils, who hit 11 winners in the first set, found the decisive breakthrough in the 10th game when Khachanov fired a forehand long to move ahead.

Fuelled by momentum, Monfils remained strong on serve in the second set, winning 92 per cent (11/12) of points behind his first delivery in the set and broke Khachanov at 5-4 to seal his victory.

Second-seeded Russian Khachanov overcame Marin Cilic to reach the final in Adelaide and was aiming to win his first title since he clinched the crown at the Rolex Paris Masters in November 2018.

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Shapovalov Shines Against Rival, Canada On Verge Of ATP Cup Title

  • Posted: Jan 09, 2022

Pablo Carreno Busta has proven a thorn in Denis Shapovalov’s side, but the Canadian got his revenge on Sunday in Sydney to put his country within one win of the ATP Cup title.

Shapovalov defeated Carreno Busta 6-4, 6-3 to give Canada a 1-0 edge against Spain. If Felix Auger-Aliassime defeats Roberto Bautista Agut, the Canadians will lift the trophy inside Ken Rosewall Arena.

“It’s a huge win, but we haven’t finished the job. We just have to keep going,” Shapovalov said. “Hopefully Felix can pull through. If not, we have a good chance in the doubles. But full faith in Felix. He’s an amazing player and I think we have a good chance.”

Carreno Busta entered the No. 2 singles showdown with a 4-1 ATP Head2Head lead against his 22-year-old opponent. Two of the Canadian’s losses had come in the fourth round or later at the US Open.

But Shapovalov shone brightly on the big stage at Sydney Olympic Park, where he used his high-flying game to great effect over one hour and 39 minutes. The dynamic lefty saved eight of the nine break points he faced to triumph.

The first game of the match, played on Shapovalov’s serve, proved critical. There were eight deuces, with Carreno Busta earning five chances to break straight away. Given the pair’s past results, that could have swayed the match in the Spaniard’s favour.

But instead, the Canadian showed he was ready for a battle. Shapovalov went for his shots throughout and controlled play, moving Carreno Busta around the court at will. Often in their rivalry, Carreno Busta’s consistency has proven difficult to deal with. But Shapovalov did not let slip his level for an extended period of time.

“[I had] a little bit of nerves going out. Obviously I’ve got a tough record against Carreno Busta, so I knew it was going to be a tough match,” Shapovalov said. “[I was] just mishitting a little bit at the beginning [given] the moment and everything, but just tried to buckle down, do the best I can to win that game and get into the match. I felt much more comfortable after that first hold.”

Carreno Busta, down a set and a break in the second set, broke back for 3-4 with solid play, letting loose a massive “Vamos!”, sensing an opportunity. But Shapovalov pummeled a forehand winner in the next game to retake the break before serving out his victory.

“It was kind of expected that he was going to put up a fight and come up with some big points. It happens a lot in tennis,” Shapovalov said. “When you start to break away, the other guy relaxes and starts to free up a little bit and make a little bit more shots and vice versa for you. You start to tighten up a little bit.”

Auger-Aliassime holds a 2-1 series advantage against Bautista Agut. Their most recent meeting came in the third round of last year’s US Open, where Felix was victorious in five sets.

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Scouting Report: Monfils Headlines Adelaide Field; Kyrgios Returns In Sydney

  • Posted: Jan 09, 2022

The action continues on the ATP Tour in Australia this week, with future and established stars aiming to make their mark at two ATP 250 events in Adelaide and Sydney.

Frenchman Gael Monfils will try to maintain his strong form when he leads the field at the Adelaide International 2, while Aslan Karatsev and Nick Kyrgios feature at the Sydney Tennis Classic. looks at five things to watch from both tournaments.

1) Monfils Aiming For Back-To-Back Titles: Monfils started his 2022 season in style by overcoming Karen Khachanov to capture his 11th ATP Tour title at Adelaide International 1. The Frenchman did not drop a set en route to the trophy and will be aiming to triumph once again in Adelaide this week. The top seed will face a qualifier in his first match and could face Khachanov in a re-match if both advance to the semi-finals. 

2) Isner Second Seed: John Isner will be aiming to clinch his 17th ATP Tour title at the ATP 250 event this week, after last triumphing in Atlanta in August. The American earned his first victory of the season against Canada’s Brayden Schnur at ATP Cup last week and will face either wild card Thanasi Kokkinakis or Frenchman Benoit Paire in his opening match.

3) Home favourite Kokkinakis Building Momentum: Australian Kokkinakis thrilled his home fans at the Adelaide International 1 last week, capturing victories over John Millman, Frances Tiafoe and Mikael Ymer as he reached his first ATP Tour semi-final since August 2017 in Los Cabos.

The 25-year-old will be aiming for another deep run this week, starting against Paire in the first round.

4) Harris Aiming For Strong Start: Lloyd Harris enjoyed a strong 2021 season, reaching a career-high No. 31 in the ATP Rankings, advancing to the final in Dubai and enjoying a run to the quarter-finals at the US Open.

The South African begins his 2022 campaign in Adelaide targeting more success as he aims to break the Top 20 this year. The fifth seed plays Nur-Sultan champion Soonwoo Kwon in the first round, with Karen Khachanov a potential quarter-finalist.

Lloyd Harris
Photo Credit: Elsa/Getty Images

5) Botic vs. Fucscovics Headlines First-Round Clashes: Dutchman Botic van de Zandschulp threw himself into the spotlight at the US Open in September when as a qualifier he upset Casper Ruud and Diego Schwartzman en route to the quarter-finals. The 26-year-old then backed up his New York run by reaching the semi-finals in St. Petersburg and the last eight in Stockholm.

The World No. 57 faces a tricky opening test in Adelaide as he takes on eighth-seeded Hungarian Marton Fucsovics. The 29-year-old advanced to the final in Rotterdam and reached the last eight at Wimbledon in 2021.

Other eye-catching first-round matches include Tiafoe against Tommy Paul and #NextGenATP Italian Lorenzo Musetti against Benjamin Bonzi.


1) Kyrgios In Action: Kyrgios will compete for the first time since he played for Team World at the Laver Cup in September when he takes to court at the ATP 250 event in Sydney.

The Australian is currently No. 93 in the ATP Rankings, but is confident in his ability as he targets a strong start to the season.

“If I’m ranked 1000 or 10 in the world everyone knows what I’m capable of on Tour,” Kyrgios said Saturday. “I’m not a player that hasn’t proven himself… I talk a lot, but I also have beaten a lot of players and I have won a lot of tournaments.”

The 26-year-old wild card will face seventh-seeded Italian Fabio Fognini in a popcorn first-round clash in Sydney.

2) Karatsev Leads The Field: Karatsev was voted Most Improved Player of the Year in the 2021 ATP Awards after rising from No. 112 in the ATP Rankings at the start of the season to a career-high No. 15 in November.

The Russian will compete in his first tournament of the year this week back in the country where his success started a year ago with a shock run to the semi-finals at the Australian Open. The top seed will play either Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic or a qualifier in his opening match in Sydney.

3) Evans In Form: Daniel Evans stood up and delivered for Great Britain at ATP Cup last week, earning singles wins against Jan-Lennard Struff, Denis Shapovalov and John Isner, while also teaming with Jamie Murray to capture two doubles victories at the 16-team event.

The third seed will be aiming to continue his perfect start to the season in Sydney when he faces either Pedro Martinez or Alexei Popyrin in the second round. Evans has fond memories of Australia, having lifted his maiden tour-level title at the Murray River Open in Melbourne last year.

4) Murray Receives Wild Card: Andy Murray suffered a disappointing first-round defeat against Facundo Bagnis at the Melbourne Summer Set last week, but will be keen to bounce back when he plays a qualifier in the first round in Sydney.

The Scot, who has reached five Australian Open finals and won two titles in Brisbane (2012, 2013), advanced to quarter-finals in Metz and Sofia last season. If Murray can reach the second round at the ATP 250 event, he will face a tough test against second seed Nikoloz Basilashvili.

5) Cressy’s Hot Streak: American Maxime Cressy enjoyed a dream run to the final at the Melbourne Summer Set Open last week, defeating Top 30 stars Reilly Opelka and John Isner, before falling to Rafael Nadal in his first tour-level final. The 24-year-old, who plays an exciting brand of serve-and-volley tennis, will look to continue his momentum in Sydney, starting against France’s Adrian Mannarino. 

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