November 29, 2021

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Canada top players all … out for Davis Cup

Canada reached the Davis Cup final last year, losing to Serbia. They won't be able to return to try to go one step further.

Canada currently boasts two top women on the WTA Tour in Bianca Andreescu and Leylah Fernandez.

It has a pair of top-20 players on the ATP Tour in Denis Shapovalov and Félix Auger-Aliassime.

But despite the men’s Davis Cup squad and the women’s Billie Jean King Cup team both making the finals in 2021, all of them were, or will be, missing in action.

The latest is Félix Auger-Aliassime, who will jump into the top 10 in the rankings on Monday.

He joins countryman Denis Shapovalov (who will be back up to No. 14 on Monday) on the sidelines for the Davis Cup Finals that begins in a little over a week.

The Canadians are the defending finalists from 2019.

Here’s the statement from Auger-Aliassime, via Tennis Canada.

“I have to withdraw from the Davis Cup Finals and end my season. I have been dragging an injury for quite some time now and my doctor recommends a rest to allow me to heal this injury before starting the next season,” said Auger-Aliassime. “It is always with great pride that I represent my country and therefore it is not a decision that I have taken lightly. The team has all of my support and I wish them the best in Madrid.”

Shapovalov done after Stockholm

Shapovalov defeated Auger-Aliassime in the Stockholm Open semifinals Friday, but lost to American Tommy Paul in the final.

On Saturday, the 22-year-old (who also skipped the Olympics in Tokyo), had this to say.

“I’m not gonna play Davis Cup. I always love to play and represent the country, but you need to make some tough decisions and I need some time off and some time for the offseason.

“It’s either you play and you don’t have an offseason, or you take time and and kind of do it the right way. So unfortunately, it is what it is.

“I always represented the best I can; we took we took Canada to the finals two years ago. And we did our best. But you need to make some tough decisions, and this was one of them.”

A quote from the captain

Given how far the Shapovalov quote Tennis Canada included in its press release was from what he actually said Saturday, we take this quote with a grain of salt as well.

(He doesn’t actually … speak like this)

But here is the official quote from captain Frank Dancevic.

“We know that Félix and Denis have always made the Davis Cup one of their top priorities since the beginning of their professional careers, and even before that since they had won the Junior Davis Cup for Canada in 2015. But it’s been a long and even more trying season due to the protocols and measures put in place to help combat the spread of the COVID-19 virus, and we completely understand their decision. We know that we can count on Félix and Denis’ support and leadership in the years to come. That said, we are delighted to have Steven (Diez) join us for the Finals. Although Steven doesn’t have much Davis Cup experience, he has proven time and time again that he’s an incredible team player and that he’s able to adapt to various situations.”

No Andreescu or Fernandez in Prague

Just a few weeks ago, the Canadian Billie Jean King Cup squad headed to Prague without two players that could, in form, have taken them far.

Neither seemed to be carrying a particular injury.

But it has been a long and eventful season for both.

While Andreescu is fairly underground, Fernandez travelled to Ecuador with her father and younger sister Bianca, as Bianca competed in a $25K ITF in their father’s homeland.

Without them – putting aside the surprise win from Françoise Abanda over Fiona Ferro (a one-off after she withdrew from her second match with a toe blister), Canada didn’t have much of a chance.

Steven Diez joins Team Canada

Steven Diez and Peter Polansky were mostly on cheerleader duty during the 2020 ATP Cup. They should see a lot more action in next week’s Davis Cup finals.

The current squad that will play Sweden and Kazakhstan in its pool in Madrid consists of Vasek Pospisil, Brayden Schnur, Peter Polansky and new addition Steven Diez.

To say the least, none of them is in tip-top form at the moment although Schnur has posted some results on the fall U.S. Challenger circuit.

On the plus side, they’ll be able to bank some serious (and much-needed, in most cases) coin to help with travel and coaching expenses going forward in 2022.

And the silver lining is that the top guns are so young, they have another decade to win Davis Cups and Billie Jean King Cups.

So hopefully it’s just a pandemic one-off.