It was a double-header of quarterfinal ties on Thursday featuring the 32-time Davis Cup champions, the USA, taking on Italy in the morning session and five-time champions Germany facing the 2019 runners-up Canada in the afternoon.
Today was a perfect example of Davis Cup at its finest, Frank Dancevic, Team Canada captain
And, unlike the previous two quarter finals played over the last 48-hours, the two ties were decided by the doubles rubber with Canada completing the last-four line-up just after midnight on Spain’s Costa del Sol by upsetting Germany after Italy had beaten the USA in what proved to be a day of Davis Cup drama.
The first signs of possible upsets came in the first rubber which saw Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego take out Frances Tiafoe 6-3 7-6(7) to put the US on the back foot from the start.
The in-form Taylor Fritz, fresh from his successful run to the semis of the ATP Finals last weekend, brought the Americans back into the tie with his 7-6(8) 6-3 win over Lorenzo Musetti.
The Italians, who were playing without their top two players Matteo Berrettini and Jannik Sinner, both suffering from injuries albeit the former was present as a team member, looked to two of their veteran players to seal a place in the semi-finals, namely the flamboyant Fabio Fognini and the solid Simone Bolelli.
And the pair did not disappoint as they swept past Tommy Paul and Jack Sock 6-4 6-4 to keep the Italian hopes of a first Davis Cup title alive.
“I am really happy; I am here with my ‘brother’ and we played really well,” Fognini said on reaching the last four of the team event for the first time since 2014.
“I am happy for me, for Fabio, for the team,” added Bolelli. “It was really tough, but it is great to be through to the semi-finals.”
Great disappointment for US captain Mardy Fish and his team who was immediately pressed to explain why he had not included Rajeev Ram, who had just won the ATP Finals doubles title alongside Britain’s Joe Salisbury last Sunday.
“We’ve got a lot of great players that play for the US,” Fish responded. “Rajeev is one of them. He wasn’t on the team this year, and that’s my choice. If anyone has an issue with that, that’s on me.
“But, if Rajeev was here or not, those guys were going to win today. They played well and they’re too good.”
Later in the day the attention switched to the last of the quarter final ties which saw Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff overcome a rankings gap of more than 130 places to defeat Denis Shapovalov – making his first Davis Cup appearance in three years – 6-3 4-6 7-6(2) in the opening rubber.
But Felix Auger-Aliassime immediately pulled Canada level by beating Oscar Otte 7-6(1) 6-4 leaving the tie poised on the deciding doubles rubber.
In that Shapovalov bounced back by partnering Vasek Pospisil to a 2-6 6-3 6-3 victory over Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz to reach their fourth Davis Cup semi-final as they strive to become champions for the first time.
After dropping the first set, the Canadians settled and consolidated early breaks in the second and third sets before sealing the win on their second match point on a Shapovalov crosscourt forehand winner.
“It’s really tough because we don’t play too much doubles throughout the year so it’s a challenge to be sharp out there but given the circumstances, I thought we played extremely well, especially as the match went on,” Pospisil said in his on-court interview.
“Today was a perfect example of Davis Cup at its finest,” the Canadian captain Frank Dancevic said.
“It was amazing to watch. They showed so much heart going into the match. At the beginning of the match, it was tough to find the rhythm. But once they found the rhythm and once they got in the groove, they played lights out. They played amazing. Took control of the match.”
Canada might be the only team in the quartet yet to win the trophy but Dancevic believes there is no clear favourite for this year’s title.
“Everybody is playing incredible tennis, and there is so much that can happen in three matches with singles and doubles and there is so much diversity that I wouldn’t say there is a favourite team right now.” he added.
“Out of the four teams, everybody is really good. We have to put ourselves in the position to win. Everybody’s going to be in the position to win. It’s just about who is going to execute at certain moments in the matches, and it will come down to a little bit of luck and a little bit of execution, but I think it’s very even throughout the field. We are all amazing teams going into the semis.”
Friday sees the first semi-final being played with Croatia taking on Australia while the Italians and Canadians take a day off before they clash on Saturday in their semi with the 2022 title being decided on Sunday