The final of the 2022 Davis Cup being played out in Malaga, Spain, was expected to be a tight affair as Australia were going for a 29th title while their Canadian opponents were hoping to win their first.
The emotions are tough to describe. Denis and I grew up together dreaming of these types of stage, dreaming of winning the Davis Cup. It's a great moment for myself and for the country. Felix Auger Aliassime
As it turned out, Canada lifted the Davis Cup crown without a set being dropped as they dominated the two opening singles leaving the doubles un-played following Canada’s unassailable lead.
Major disappointment for the Aussie captain Lleyton Hewitt and his team who were playing their first final since 2003 at the century-old international team competition.
Utter delight for the Canadians under the leadership of Frank Dancevic, who had only appeared in the final once before, back in 2019, when they lost to a Rafa Nadal led Spain with the same team of Denis Shapovalov, Felix Auger Aliassime and Vasek Pospisil.
And it was Shapovalov who set the scene producing a virtually faultless performance to overpower Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-2 6-4 leaving Auger Aliassime to apply the coup de grace against Alex de Minaur in the battle of No.1 players, who had built up an excellent Davis Cup record for the season, both losing just one singles rubber.
There can be no doubt that the momentum was with the Montreal player from the start knowing that he had the doubles to fall back in case of failure. Not so for his opponent from Sydney who was ranked 18 places behind him and had all the pressure of a nation on his shoulders to turn the tie around.
But try as he might on the big points, De Minaur just couldn’t make an impact on the match, whereas his 22-year-old Canadian opponent, the world number six could do little wrong as he won what proved to be the deciding rubber 6-3 6-4.
A break in each set was enough for the rising Canadian star but it could have been very different if De Minaur had been able to convert one of the eight break points he held.
The Aussie’s problems started form the opening game when he held 15-40 on Auger Aliassime’s serve only to see two break points evaporate. He also lost a break opportunity in the next game before being broken himself to go 3-5 behind and the set in the next game.
There was no change in the second set with Auger Aliassime successfully holding off De Minaur.
The Aussie again had a break point in the Canadian’s opening service game but it was saved as Auger-Aliassime then stepped up to take a 2-1 lead.
That would have broken most players’ spirits but not when you are wearing the ‘green and gold’ of Australia.
De Minaur roared when he held for 2-3 and then with a perfect backhand lob, he raised three break points for a great chance to level but again, Auger Aliassime held firm to win the rubber and put Canada’s name on the Trophy for the first time.
In the earlier rubber, the left-handed Shapovalov, world ranked 18, had come into the final having lost both his quarter final and semi-final rubbers against Germany and Italy.
But there were no signs of nerves as he stormed off to an excellent start and preventing Kokkinkis from securing a game until the fifth, before pocketing the set after 32-minutes.
Shapovalov broke again in the third game of the second set, but Kokkinakis earned three break points in a marathon fourth game twith more confident hitting from the baseline and targeting the Canadian’s backhand.
Kokkinakis was far better in the second set, saved two break points in the seventh game with some excellent deep serves but a double fault handed Shapovalov a double-break and a chance to serve out the match.
Kokkinakis, world ranked 95, hit back immediately as Shapvalov suddenly showed some signs of nerves as he delivered a series of unforced errors to give Kokkinakis what proved to be a short-lived lifeline.
Following his win Shapovalov admitted that he had been determined to score his first singles win this week.
“Two tough losses this week and I’m very happy with the way I played today to get the win,” said the 23-year-old.
“It helped me being in the final before. Last time it was all kind of new, we were relieved just to be there but today we’re very much going for the trophy.”
Becoming Davis Cup champions was a dream come true for the pair.
“The emotions are tough to describe,” the 22-year-old Auger-Aliassime said. “Denis and I grew up together dreaming of these types of stage, dreaming of winning the Davis Cup. It’s a great moment for myself and for the country.”
While Pospisil services were not required in the final, he had played a major part in their success over the week.
“We’ve been dreaming about this for several years,” said 32-year-old doubles specialist added. “To be here as world champions I’m speechless. These guys are not kids any more. They’ve been crushing it. You can’t win this event without tremendous team chemistry.”
But there was a certain amount of luck for the Canadian’s had been eliminated from the 110th edition of the competition during the qualifying rounds only to be handed a wildcard which was originally presented to Serbia.
Serbia though, was called on to replace the holder’s Russia when they were expelled from the competition following Putin’s illegal invasion of the Ukraine, so the wildcard was redirected to Canada who certainly made the most of their good fortune.