Finland, the underdogs of this year’s Davis Cup final being played in Malaga, Spain, produced a shock result by coming back from a rubber down to oust the defending champions Canada and book a place in the semi-finals for the first time in their history.
In what was the opening day of the competition, the Finns making their debut in the Finals, looked set to have a brief visit to Spain’s Costa del Sol when Milos Raonic, making his first appearance in Davis Cup play since 2018, dominated with his serve to defeat Patrick Kaukovalta 6-3 7-5 in just over one hour, to give the Canadians, as expected, the opening point.
“I took care of my serve and I created quite a few opportunities,” the 32-year-old Raonic, who didn’t face a break point said after the opening rubber. “Just kept putting myself in good positions and it worked out pretty well.”
He struck 18 aces, four of which were blasted down in the opening game and broke for 5-3 to then pocket the opening set.
The second set proved more of a contest as the 24-year-old Finn fought back but Raonic’s power proved too much for him and he eventually was broken again at 5-5 and a game later, lot the opening rubber.
But Finland weren’t out and immediately struck back through Otto Virtanen who returned the compliment by dominating Gabriel Diallo with his serve to level the tie 6-4 7-5 after 94-minutes.
The 22-year-old, who is ranked 179th in the world, hit 14 aces to Diallo’s two, breaking serve in the third game and saving an immediate break-back before claiming the first set.
And much like the opening rubber, the second set was a much tighter affair with the crucial break coming at 5-all to give Virtanen the chance to serve out, which he duly did.
Virtanen then returned for the decisive doubles match, teaming up with Harri Heliovaara to take on Alexis Galarneau and Vasek Pospisil.
The Finns struck first to take a 3-1 lead but were pegged back by the Canadians, who drew level at 4-4 but at 6-5 the underdogs were rewarded with two set points. They converted the second at which point an upset was well on the cards.
And as a consequence, the Canadians found themselves under intense pressure at the start of the second as they saved six break points to hold for 1-1 only to miss out in the fifth game, when they had the chance to break the Finns in what was a crucial miss as Virtanen and Heliovaara broke to pull ahead for 5-3 and then serve it out to love to move into the last four, where they will meet either the Czech Republic or Australia who face each other on Wednesday,
Britain take on Serbia on Thursday and The Netherlands meet Italy on Friday.