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Shapovalov puts Canada on the board in Davis Cup final with win over Kokkinakis

Denis Shapovalov defeats Thanasi Kokkinakis to put Canada ahead of Australia 1-0 in the Davis Cup title. Felix Auger-Aliassime has a chance to clinch the title in the next rubber.

Shapovalov Davis Cup 2022 (© AI / Reuters / Panoramic) Shapovalov Davis Cup 2022 (© AI / Reuters / Panoramic)

Canada is one win away from its first-ever Davis Cup title after Denis Shapovalov defeated Australia’s Thanasi Kokkinakis 6-2, 6-4 in Sunday’s opening rubber of the 2022 final. Shapovalov prevailed inside the Martin Carpena Pavilion in Malaga, Spain after one hour and 29 minutes.

There were doubts about the lefty’s fitness following a three-hour and 15-minute loss to Italy’s Lorenzo Sonego on Saturday, after which he was unsurprisingly kept out of the doubles runner (which was won by Felix Auger-Aliassime and Vasek Pospisil).

Shapovalov had also lost his quarterfinal singles match to Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany. But an improved Shapovalov was on display in the final, despite his grueling effort the previous day. The world No 18 more than doubled his unforced error count with winners (24 to 10) and was not broken a single time until he served for the match at 5-2 in the second set. On his second chance at 5-4, Shapovalov served it out at love.

“I felt like I was playing good tennis; I just couldn’t get over the hurdle,” the 23-year-old said of his first two matches in Malaga. “I’m very happy with the win.”

Auger-Aliassime has chance to clinch Davis Cup title

Auger-Aliassime, captain Frank Dancevic, and the rest of the team have to be thrilled, as well. Canada is now one win away from lifting the trophy for the first time after it fell to Spain in the 2019 final.

“We already felt a little bit relieved just getting [to the final in 2019],” Shapovalov reflected. “It’s totally different this time. We’re going for the title. We’re doing everything we can.”

If Australia wants to lift the trophy for the first time since 2003, Alex de Minaur will have to beat Auger-Aliassime in the second singles rubber and force a decisive doubles showdown. That head-to-head series stands at 2-1 in the Canadian’s favor, including 1-0 at the ATP level. They faced each other this summer at the Cincinnati Masters, where Auger-Aliassime cruised 6-3, 6-2.

“It’s always thrilling watching both of them play,” Shapovalov concluded. “They’re obviously amazing players, so it’s going to be a great match.”

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