Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov likely to get singles nods for Canada at Davis Cup

Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov reached the final when they played in the Davis Cup together three years ago.

They have reunited this week in Malaga, Spain, with a goal of leading Canada to its first title at the season-closing team event.

"Teams are afraid of us," Canadian captain Frank Dancevic said Tuesday. "We have two top guys coming in, they've played a lot of matches and they're confident. I feel like we have a mental edge coming in for sure.

"But people are going to come after us too. Guys are going to come swinging."

Canada opens the eight-team knockout stage on Thursday against Germany at the Palacio de Deportes Martín Carpena.

The lineups for the two singles matches and lone doubles match will be finalized Wednesday.

The sixth-ranked Auger-Aliassime, from Montreal, and 18th-ranked Shapovalov, from Richmond Hill, Ont., are expected to get the singles nods.

Vasek Pospisil of Vernon, B.C., — also a key member of the 2019 side that fell to Spain — will likely be featured in doubles.

World No. 65 Oscar Otte is the lone German player on the roster in the top 100 of the ATP Tour's singles rankings. Tim Puetz and Kevin Krawietz are top-25 doubles players.

Jan-Lennard Struff and Yannick Hanfmann are also in a lineup that's missing 12th-ranked Alex Zverev (foot).

"Our guys are going to have to be on and they're going to have to be playing well," Dancevic said. "Nothing is a given. I feel like we're slight favourites going in but it's definitely going to be a very tough battle."

Alexis Galarneau of Laval, Que., and Montreal's Gabriel Diallo round out the Canadian roster.

Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime helped Canada beat Spain in the final of the ATP Cup team event last January.

Scheduling conflicts and injury concerns have sometimes prevented Canada from putting its A-team on the court at Davis Cup. But with his top players available this week and in form, Dancevic is feeling bullish about his team's chances.

"It's going to be very tight but we're in a position to do really well," he told The Canadian Press from Malaga. "I feel like we're in a position to win the Davis Cup.

"We have everything on our team to go through and win this event — definitely. I really believe in this team and I believe we can do it."

Canada posted a 2-1 record in last September's qualification round in Valencia. Canada beat South Korea and upset Spain before sealing the berth when Auger-Aliassime earned a singles win in a 2-1 loss to Serbia.

Germany, meanwhile, beat France, Belgium and Australia in Hamburg to qualify. Struff won all three of his singles matches while Krawietz and Puetz clinched all three ties in doubles.

The Canada-Germany winner will play either Italy or the United States in the semifinals. The bottom half of the draw had quarterfinal matchups between the Netherlands and Australia and host Spain and Croatia.

The final is scheduled for Sunday.

Auger-Aliassime has taken his game to a higher level this season. He has won four tournaments this year and become a mainstay in the top 10.

Shapovalov had an uneven first half but reached the semifinals last month in Tokyo and made it to the final in Vienna a few weeks later.

Pospisil, who won a Challenger tournament last week, is ranked 100th in singles and is a former world No. 4 in doubles.

"I feel like he understands Davis Cup at such a deep level when it comes to energy and team spirit and getting his partner fired up in the doubles — whoever he's playing with," Dancevic said. "He brings a tremendous amount of energy to the team and got us through a lot of (qualifying) matches."

Germany is ranked fifth in the Davis Cup team rankings, slightly ahead of No. 6 Canada. The top four spots are held by Croatia, Spain, France and the United States.

The Canadians, who did not advance beyond the group stage last year, have never played Germany at this competition.

Germany reached the semifinals last year before falling to Russia.

The 2021 champions are not back to defend their title. Russia was banned from the international team competition because of the nation's invasion of Ukraine.

Germany's last Davis Cup title came in 1993. Canada made its debut at this tournament in 1913.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 22, 2022.

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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press