Canada booked their place in the final of the Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals in dramatic fashion, downing Russia in a third-set tie-break in the decisive doubles
Canada are through to their first ever Davis Cup final after Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil beat Russia’s Andrey Rublev and Karen Khachanov by the narrowest of margins, edging the decisive doubles 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5) to win the semi-final 2-1.
Frank Dancevic’s side will face either Great Britain or Spain in Sunday’s final after his two-man crew clung on to reach the last day of a gruelling week, Shapovalov setting up the dramatic finale with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 win over Khachanov after Rublev claimed a fourth successive singles win of the Davis Cup by Rakuten Madrid Finals, beating Pospisil 6-4, 6-4.
Both sides have relied on just two players this week at Caja Magica, and with fatigue and frayed nerves playing their part in an at-times scrappy showdown, it was the Canadian duo who ended the doubles as they started, winning five of the last six points to seal a historic win.
“I thought both teams played phenomenal,” Dancevic said. “The Russians threw everything they had at us, it was just a matter of who came up with the better shots. There was no room for error today – they went for their shots, went big in the big moments, and here we are into the final.”
"They went for their shots, went big in the big moments, and here we are into the final"
The semi-final was a cagey affair from first ball to last, with Rublev downing a weary Pospisil in the opening match. Both players had perfect singles records in Madrid coming into the match, but it was Rublev who made the perfect start, breaking to love to assume control.
With Pospisil struggling to assert himself behind his typically reliable serve, the 22-year-old dominated proceedings, his only blip coming when he saw three set points come and go from 0-40 on the Canadian’s serve at 5-3.
Pospisil was still giving his all, producing a heroic effort during the outstanding point of the match in the 10th game which ended with the Canadian skidding into the net post and bloodying his knee while chasing down a drop volley from the Russian.
“I started well, broke straight away, and I think that was the key,” said Rublev, who faced sterner resistance from Pospisil in the second set after going 3-1 up. “He still had some chances on three or four break points, but on all of them I played really well.”
"It was a little nerve-wracking trying to serve it out, but I kept at it, played one point at a time"
Shapovalov turned around the opening set of the battle of the No.1s with a wild shift in momentum, Khachanov slamming his racquet into the court after seeing a 4-1 lead disappear.
From there both players dug in on serve, only for Shapovalov to crumble when serving to stay in the second set and double-faulting at 15-40 to hand Khachanov a route back into the match.
The third was a tense affair, the weight of every point resting heavier as the set wore on. But it took a touch of class from Shapovalov to fashion the telling breakthrough, flashing a trademark backhand winner to break for a 4-3 lead.
Still the drama continued, Khachanov seeing a break point come and go in the next game before reaching 0-40 with the match on the line. But after arrowing a backhand just wide, he could not find a way past the Canadian.
“Obviously it was a little nerve-wracking trying to serve it out,” Shapovalov said. “But I kept at it, played one point at a time and I was able to convert some break points to get the win.”
"We’ve got a huge day, a historic day for us tomorrow, and we’re going to leave it all out there"
The Canadians began the doubles on the front foot, surging out to a 3-0 lead that proved decisive in the first set. But with the action flitting from scrappy to sublime, Russia claimed the odd break in three to force a one-set shootout for a place in the final.
Both teams saw two break points come and go before the match headed into the tiebreak, where the Russians struck first to open up a 4-2 lead at the change of ends. But the Canadians stormed back to seal the historic win, advancing to their first ever final from their third semi-final appearance.
“I’m at a loss for words,” Shapovalov said. “It’s incredible how far we’ve come this week, with me and Vasek playing on a different level. It’s unbelievable to see. And to clinch it like this, in the doubles, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Pospisil added: “We’re going to try and get a good night’s sleep and rest up tomorrow. We’ve got a huge day, a historic day for us tomorrow, and we’re going to leave it all out there.”