The last time we saw the Canadian Davis Cup team, they were at the US Open.
That was about three weeks ago, and these Davis Cup rubbers against Italy are their first competitive matches since then.
The two singles players today, Alexis Galarneau and Gabriel Diallo, were making their career US Open debuts, in the qualifying.
It’s already going better in Bologna Wednesday.
Galarneau vs Dominic Stricker – good start
The 24-year-old Galarneau, fresh from the biggest title of his career at the Challenger in Granby, took on 21-year-old Swiss lefty Dominic Stricker in the first round.
And he got off to a great start in winning the first set.
After that, it got complicated. And in hindsight probably not that surprising considering the run Stricker had in New York.
Stricker escaped a 13-11 deciding tiebreak in the second round, qualified. And then he defeated Alexei Popyrin, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Benjamin Bonzi (both in five sets) before losing to Taylor Fritz in the fourth round.
Here’s what it looked like.
Tough one for Diallo
Gabriel Diallo, who was seeded in qualifying, had to have high hopes as he came into a match against Belgian veteran Kimmer Coppejans in the first round.
Time flies. Coppejans, now 29, won the Roland Garros juniors back in 2012. He defeated Canadian Filip Peliwo in the final.
After that, he broke into the top 100 briefly all the way back in 2015. But he stood at No. 148 for the match against Diallo, who was slightly lower-ranked at the time.
Diallo had his chances – and then some. In the end, he bowed out 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 – 11-9 in the match tiebreak.
It was quite the match. Tough luck not to win it.
Agony and ecstasy for Pospisil
For Vasek Pospisil, now 33, the opening round of qualifying was an absolute marathon.
He had played very little in recent months. And he also was up to his ears in PTPA business during the week before the US Open.
Despite that, he prevailed in a nearly 3 1/2-hour marathon against Pedro Martinez – 7-6 (7), 6-7 (3), 6-4.
Pospisil ran into trouble in the second round against American Zachary Svajda – massive humidity (always his worst enemy), long rain delays and worse, no time to recover from the first match. So in the end, he fell in straight sets in that one.
We hear Pospisil’s elbow is barking at him a little bit as he leads the Canadian team in the group stages of this Davis Cup final. Let’s see how much he has to give.
Shapovalov on the sidelines
For Denis Shapovalov, by far the highest-ranked member of the Canadian Davis Cup squad in Bologna, it’s been a disastrous summer.
He’s been battling a knee issue for most of the year, and is a pedestrian 13-13 in 2023.
More concerning is that he hasn’t played since losing in the fourth round of Wimbledon to Roman Safiullin. It was a tournament in which he had a spectacular draw, including facing the No. 92 to get to the quarterfinals.
But the body wouldn’t allow.
As a result, he missed the entire summer hard-court season – happy time for him – including the National Bank Open in Toronto, and the US Open.
He was there, though, as support for his new fiancée, Swedish player Mirjam Bjorklund.
Bjorklund qualified for the main draw. And in the first round against No. 32 seed Elise Mertens, she had every opportunity to pull off the upset.
Shapovalov was right there for every point – even mixing the drinks for her.
Unfortunately, she fell just short in the match tiebreak.
But none of that was good practice for Davis Cup. Shapovalov has so little tennis in him lately – or even practice, for that matter. He told Open Court in New York that the knee still hurt. Hopefully he can have some sort of effect on the outcome.
But that’s definitely aspirational.