Canada made history in 2019 by reaching the Davis Cup final for the first time and did so under the guidance of one of the youngest captains in the competition: Frank Dancevic. We talk to him about his memories of that week – days that neither he nor the rest of his team will ever forget.
Frank Dancevic took over from his former coach, Martin Laurendeau, in 2018 and is already making his mark on the Davis Cup as a captain. Achieving a career-high singles ranking of 65 during his playing career, he represented Canada at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Since 2002, he’s been one of the Davis Cup 'faithful', participating in the competition for more than 15 years with the only exceptions of 2008 and 2017, earning him the International Tennis Federation (ITF) Commitment Award.
What does the Davis Cup mean for someone who doesn’t know much about the world of tennis?
The Davis Cup is the world championships of tennis. For countries. You’re regrouping the best players of each country, the best of the best. And you’re putting them out there to play against everybody else around the world. As a Canadian… we love our sports and tennis has become big in the last ten years... The Davis Cup is the biggest stage for tennis to be able to play for your country and compete as an individual but for something bigger.
Tell us about the Canadian team...
We were never known as a tennis nation before and started with [Milos] Raonic and [Vasek] Pospisil. They started making some great results in the singles, and then the young players came up – Felix [Auger Aliassime] and Denis [Shapovalov] – in the past couple of years… getting into the top 20 in the world so young in their careers.
“In the last match, it was amazing for me, to be that close in the action and to watch two champions – Denis is a champion for me as well, so young and he’s achieved so many great things.”
What were your expectations and goals for the 2019 finals? Were you expecting to reach the final?
I was not expecting to reach it, but I know that my team is capable of beating anybody in the world. I think we have unbelievable talent and unbelievable depth. From the singles guys, from the fire that all the guys have playing the matches, with the doubles, everything, we have lots of depth.
And what do you remember about that Sunday, the day of the final against Spain?
First of all, these guys have been in quite a few situations. Maybe not the younger guys… this was a first one for Felix, for everybody actually on the team being in the finals. And there’s so many emotions running through our veins… It was getting the match going, playing Bautista. I had a feeling that Bautista had lots of emotions going through him with everything that happened in his personal life, and I felt like he was going to come out and play incredible tennis. I had that feeling that he wanted to play for something bigger than tennis, for his country, for something. And I knew that we had a very difficult match on our hands. Felix went out. He had chances in the first set, a few break points, didn’t convert, it was a difficult tiebreaker for him. But I felt that Bautista, he was very, very solid that day. He played a very good match and it would have been difficult for anybody to beat him that day.
“For us to be there was truly an honour and it just gave us a taste of the trophy – a small version of the trophy – and we’ll be back to try to get the big one one day.”
Did you think it was possible to win the second match – Shapovalov against Rafael Nadal – and take it to the third?
Absolutely. Beating Rafa in Spain is an incredibly difficult task. 12,000 people cheering behind him, besides the champion he is. We know that there is a chance of winning the match but we have to go for it, we have to play 110%, and Denis knew this going in. I felt like we got very close in the second set to take the tiebreaker but Rafa, I thought he just stepped his game up in the tiebreaker, he just played incredible tennis. And it was amazing for me, to be that close in the action and to watch two champions – Denis is a champion for me as well, so young and he’s achieved so many great things. It was tough, tough for us that we lost that match but in the end they deserved it, I mean Rafa played incredible and he showed that he’s a true champion to be able to pull through in the big moments and play the way he did.
How would you sum up the feelings of being in the final? It's a huge result but at the same time, it's losing a final...
Losing’s never easy and we got so close. We were in the Qualifying earlier that year – Felix ended up winning the fifth match to get us into the Finals. And all of a sudden we show up and we’re in the final. So there are so many emotions happening: whether we should feel devastated, or whether we should feel really proud and happy that we actually made it this far... At the end of the day, we did an amazing thing to get so far into the finals with such a young team, even Milos wasn’t there. I thought there were so many pivotal moments that week that could have gone either way. Even Russia, you’re looking at the Russia matches and a few points separate everything. So for us to be there was truly an honour and it just gave us a taste of the trophy – a small version of the trophy and we’ll be back to try to get the big one one day.
Don’t miss out! Learn more about Frank Dancevic and the Canadian team in the documentaryBreak Point: A Davis Cup Story. Access it here