A disappointing year for Canadian tennis has been salvaged by an unlikely source. While Genie Bouchard, Vasek Pospisil, Milos Raonic and Daniel Nestor have struggled with injuries and inconsistent form, Canada’s juniors have reminded the world that the great white north is a future tennis power after all.
The Canadian boys claimed the nation’s first ever international team title at any level, winning the junior Davis Cup with a 2-1 win over Germany. The team was led by US Open boys’ doubles champions Félix Auger-Aliassime of Montreal, QC, and Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, ON, backed up by Benjamin Segouin of Vancouver, BC. Prior to the victory, Canada had never won a Davis Cup or Fed Cup title at any level. The men’s Davis Cup team was beaten in the quarter-finals of this year’s world group with an injury-depleted squad.
Canada, led by the US Open champions, were the top seeds at this year’s junior Davis Cup and entered the final against the Germans having yet to lose a single rubber throughout the tournament. Shapovalov, aged 16, kicked off the final with a straight sets win over German Marvin Moeller to improve Canada’s record to 13-0 in the 2015 junior Davis Cup. However, the run was stopped when Nicola Kuhn defeated the fifteen-year-old Auger-Aliassime 6-3, 6-3 to extend Canada to a deciding rubber for the first time in the tournament. The Canadians were up to the task, winning a tight three-setter 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 to claim the title.
Both Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov were excited by the final and understood the significance of their victory. Auger-Aliassime said “It was an unbelievable final. We had to clinch it in the deciding doubles but I think we did a great job. The support on the sidelines was amazing. We are really proud of what we did here.” Shapovalov went further, saying "It's very exciting being the first Canadians to ever win Junior Davis Cup. We knew we had the team to do it as all three of the players on this team are great and contributed. We are very excited.”
Last month, the teenage pair became the ninth and tenth Canadians to win a junior Grand Slam title, but only the second all-Canadian team to do it, (the other being the Sébastiens, Lareau and Leblanc, in 1990.) Daniel Nestor remains Canada’s lone Grand Slam champion at the senior level in the Open Era, but their title at the junior Davis Cup gives them a special place in Canadian sports lore. Hopefully it will lead to a title at the senior level soon.
The junior Davis Cup title is the high point in a low year for Canadian tennis. 2014 was a banner year for Canada, with Eugenie Bouchard reaching the Wimbledon final, two further Grand Slam semi-finals and the WTA Tour finals. Milos Raonic reached the quarter-finals of the French Open and semi-finals of Wimbledon, becoming the first Canadian man to do so in singles, and qualified for the ATP World Tour Finals. Vasek Pospisil also won the Wimbledon doubles title. Expectations were high for Canada this year, but a combination of factors turned the year into a massive disappointment. A foot injury in May derailed Milos Raonic’s season after he reached his career high ranking of number four in the world. Genie Bouchard struggled with form all year, going 1-10 at one point, before bouncing back at the US Open, only to sustain a concussion off court. Vasek Pospisil had the best result, reaching the quarter-finals of Wimbledon, but has struggled with various injuries that kept him inconsistent.
Canada’s girls team added to the great week, claiming the bronze medal in the junior Fed Cup by sweeping Russia in the third-place tie. Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov clearly have a bright future ahead and will be expected to build on the foundation that Nestor, Raonic, Pospisil and Bouchard have built. They are 15 and 16 respectively, so they still have several years to mature before breaking onto the main tour. However, considering where they are now, the future is brighter than ever for Canadian tennis.