Davis Cup: Canada 1-1 Great Britain - Victories for Evans and Pospisil leave the tie in the balance

It was honors even after day one in the BNP Paribas Davis Cup World Group tie between Canada and Great Britain as both number one’s shone for their country, picking up straight sets wins at the TD Place Arena in Ottawa, Canada.

Dan Evans got Great Britain off to the perfect start, proving to be far too strong for 17-year-old Denis Shapovalov as he wrapped up a 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 victory in one hour and 50 minutes.

The young Canadian was playing in his first live Davis Cup rubber and early nerves cost him in the opening set, dropping serve twice. The world number 234 looked steadier in sets two and three, but failed to break Evans serve over the course of the match. The Brit impressed, winning 84% of points behind his first serve playing in his first Davis Cup rubber since losing to Leonardo Mayer in last year’s semifinal against eventual champions Argentina.

In the second rubber Vasek Pospisil surprised many as he produced tennis which was of a stark contrast to his recent form, defeating Kyle Edmund in straight sets 6-4, 6-1, 7-6(3) to level the tie at 1-1.

A break late on in the first set for the Canadian number one not only secured a one set lead but enabled him to maintain his momentum and race through the second set, earning break point opportunities in each of the Brit’s service games. The third set was a tight affair which Pospisil took control of in the tiebreak to secure a pivotal victory for the home side.

While we will not see the world number one Andy Murray or world number three Milos Raonic feature in this tie, there is still plenty of tennis to enjoy in Ottawa. Great Britain went into the contest as the favorites, boasting two top 50 players in the shape of Evans (45) and Edmund (47), taking on two Canadians ranked outside the world’s top 100, Pospisil (133) and Shapovalov (234), but it is all to play for after day one.

Evans controlled the opening rubber from the start to finish. Photo: Getty
Evans controlled the opening rubber from start to finish. Photo: Getty

1st Rubber: Dan Evans defeats Denis Shapovalov 

The two players had met once before this encounter, in a semifinal at a ATP Challenger event in Drummondville last year. That match also went the way of the Brit, winning 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-4.

Early break seals first set for Evans

Fresh from a terrific run at the Australian Open where he made his first fourth round at a Grand Slam, Evans made the perfect start. The Brit earned an immediate break courtesy of a couple of forehand errors and a double fault from a nervous looking Shapovalov. The Canadian also had to battle when under pressure at deuce on serve in the third game and went down 0-30 in game five. The Canadian recovered well to hold and keep himself in the opening set. Despite Evans only making 46% of his first serves, he did not face a break point in the first set. Play continued to go with serve up until the ninth game, when the Brit secured another break. The British number two struck a forehand winner to get to set point before his 17-year-old opponent went long with a backhand to wrap it up for Great Britain 6-3.

Shapovalov rallies to make the second set competitive 

Both players held early on in set number two, but it was Evans who faced the first real test on serve as he faced a break point for the first time in the match after the world number 234 fired a huge backhand cross court winner. The Brit showed his top 50 class, saving the point with an ace out wide. Another backhand winner from Shapovalov brought up another break chance, but the world number 45 remained firm, finding the first serve when it mattered most to hang on before closing out the game with another ace out wide.

The Brit raises his level to take a two set lead

That hold proved to be pivotal in shaping the outcome of the second set as Evans used that momentum from the previous game to race into a 0-40 advantage on the Canadian’s serve. The 17-year-old saved two of the opportunities but could not deny his opponent on the third occasion, succumbing to trail 4-2. A hold to love from the world number 45 extended his lead and the British number two had no problems when stepping up to serve for the set, taking it 6-3 to secure a two sets to love lead after one hour and 15 minutes.

Strong third set from the world number 45

Evans looked to end the opening rubber quickly at the start of the third, earning two break point opportunities in the third game. Shapovalov steadied himself and stood firm, saving both before coming away with the game and continuing to remain in front.

The Brit made the breakthrough at the crucial time in the ninth game, earning him the opportunity to serve for the match. Evans impressed in the final game, racing to 40-0. The British number two dropped just his fourth point on serve in the third set to squander the first match point, but took the next one to give Great Britain a 1-0 lead after a 6-3, 6-3, 6-4 win. 

Edmund's defeat to Pospisil was his third loss in five Davis Cup matches since making his first appearance in the 2015 Davis Cup Final (l. Goffin). Photo: Getty
Edmund's defeat to Pospisil was his third loss in five Davis Cup matches since making his first appearance in the 2015 Davis Cup Final (l. Goffin). Photo: Getty

2nd Rubber: Vasek Pospisil defeats Kyle Edmund

These two players had also met once before. The Canadian got the better of an at the time young and inexperienced Edmund in 2013 in Chennai, winning 6-3, 7-5.

Pospisil edges a tight first set

Both players held their opening couple of service games before Pospisil, ranked at 40 in the world this time last year, faced two break points in the fifth game. The world number 133 saved the first and then the second with an ace to the delight of the home crowd as he progressed to hold and stay in front. The Canadian then received a medical timeout. 

The ninth game was a lengthy battle as Pospisil faced a third break point of the match so far. The world number 133 played an excellent point, striking a powerful forehand which Edmund could not return. The former Wimbledon quarterfinalist got himself and the crowd fired up as he battled to secure the hold and move a game away from taking the opening set.

The Canadian made the most of his new found momentum and forced his way to a set point opportunity. Edmund saved the first but could not deny the world number 133 at the second time of asking as he sealed the set 6-4.

The Canadian looks to maintain his momentum

Edmund was under real pressure in his opening service game in the second set , having to face two break points, the second of which he saved with a timely ace down the middle. The Brit went on to hold, stopping his opponent’s momentum to level at one game all. 

The world number 47 may have held off the Canadian in that game but could not stop him from breaking the next time the Brit stepped up to serve. Pospisil quickly extended his lead to 4-1 and brought up yet another break point in game six. Edmund went long with the backhand, resulting in a roar from the world number 133 as he raced into a 5-1 lead. The home favorite had little problem securing a two sets to love lead as he held to love.

Canada level the tie after victory in third set tiebreak

The third set was the extremely close, with both players remaining defiant on serve. In the twelfth game Edmund was hoping to strike at the perfect time as he made two points away from the set at 0-30. As Pospisil had done throughout the contest he fought his way to secure the hold, taking us into a tiebreak. The Brit moved 2-1 in front but from there the world number 133 took control, winning five points in a row to move to match points. Edmund saved the first but could not make the return of serve on the second as Pospisil secured a 6-4, 6-3, 7-6(3) victory, much to the delight of the home crowd.

1-1 after day one between Canada and Great Britain, the doubles tie on Saturday could prove to be pivotal in deciding who faces France or Japan in the quarterfinals.