It was always going to be a hard battle between two nations with teams desperate to end the year with one of the most prestigious titles in the sport with Canada the most to gain having never won the century old competition while their opponents Italy succeeded in lifting the trophy back in 1976.
Everybody just has a clear idea of the main goal, which is lifting the Cup. Felix Auger Aliassime
And it looked as if the Italians would have the chance of adding to their tally when they won the opening rubber courtesy of Lorenzo Sonego’s 7-6(4) 6-7(5) 6-4 defeat of Denis Shapovalov but then up stepped Felix Auger Aliassime not only brought the Canadians level in the second singles, but then partnered Vasek Pospisil to claim the deciding doubles point and a place in the final.
For the Canadians it will be their second appearance in the title round with what is basically the same team that lost to Spain in the 2019 final.
It was very much the Montreal player’s day as he beat Lorenzo Musetti 6-3 6-4 hitting 12 aces in the process, dropping just three points on his first serve without once facing a break point.
Following his win, the 22-year-old, after a brief break, joined Pospisil to take on Matteo Berrettini and Fabio Fognini, defeating the Italian duo over two hours, 7-6(2) 7-5.
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Berrettini is better known as a singles player but wasn’t selected as he hadn’t recovered sufficiently from an injury, replaced Simone Bolelli in what proved to be a gamble by team captain Filippo Volandri, which backfired.
A similar gamble was made by the Canadian captain, Frank Dancevic, bringing Auger Aliassime in to replace Shapovalov at the last minute.
“We knew coming this week that we could make some changes depending on how singles went, and I just feel like the whole team connected around this idea and there was no ego in the wrong places,” Auger-Aliassime explained the hasty decision.
“Everybody just has the clear idea of the main goal, which is lifting the Cup.”
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Dancevic added that the decision was made as Auger-Aliassime was the fresher player.
“Vasek, he plays amazing with both Denis and Felix,” he pointed out.
“Denis just played a really long match today. Felix was more fresh. He was feeling great on the court. He was fresh going into the match. That was sort of the thought behind the decision.
“Denis really left his heart out today. Played a 3-hour, 15-minute match. It was tough coming back to play doubles today when we had Felix who was fresh.”
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Italian skipper Filippo Volandri revealed that the late inclusion of Berrettini was sparked by an injury to the veteran Bolelli.
“Yesterday I asked Matteo to try to be ready for today in case we had to play the doubles. He decided to try to be there, and he practiced twice yesterday. He practiced alone this morning, and he was ready,” Volandri said.
“I’m really proud of all members of the team, because when I ask them to try to do something, they always do. That’s why I’m really proud of them.”
Sonego provided him with their only point for what, as he said following his win in the opening rubber, “a great moment for Italy.” Unfortunately, it proved short-lived.
World number 45 Sonego had sealed victory in three hours and 14 minutes after back-to-back double faults from 18th-ranked Shapovalov, who had won their only previous meeting in Rome earlier this year.
Shapovalov paid dearly for only converting one of 13 break points while Sonego could have wrapped up the clash in straight sets after being 5-2 ahead in the second set tiebreak.
Sonego also paid great credit to Shapovalov’s fighting spirit and it was, without a doubt, an ‘unbelievable moment’ for him.
“Shapo fights non-stop, I had to be focused on every point and I needed the help of all my team.”
On Sunday Canada will face Australia who are chasing their 29th Davis Cup title having reached the final for the first time since 2003