Transcending individual aspirations, Félix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov have built Canada’s biggest-ever tennis success. Brick by brick, the two friends claimed the ATP Cup for Canada, the country’s first team trophy at senior level. “We have great team chemistry,” Shapovalov said during the on-court interview after the decisive doubles match won alongside Auger-Aliassime against Russia in the semi-final. “We trust each other to the highest level.” Auger-Aliassime said much the same thing after his 7/6 6/3 win against Roberto Bautista Agut, earning his team its ATP Cup victory. “We trust each other to the highest level. Denis and I, everybody in the team,” he said after the match. “All their egos are aside and we really trusted each other.”
The two players were omnipresent throughout the competition, with at least one of them playing in all the decisive singles and doubles matches apart from one. Still short on rhythm after isolating following a positive COVID-19 test, “Shapo” was forced to sit out the singles during Canada’s 3-0 round-robin defeat against the USA. Meanwhile, “F2A” lost his first match 7/6 4/6 4/6 to Taylor Fritz. But he delivered a convincing performance against the human backboard Cameron Norrie, upsetting the UK player’s rhythm in a 7/6 6/3 win. And he then went on to claim the highest-ranked scalp of his career, taking down Alexander Zverev in the final round-robin tie.
“The way Felix played (against Zverev) was amazing” - Denis Shapovalov
When he beat Zverev at Wimbledon last year, he was ranked sixth in the world. But with “Sascha” Zverev having moved up three places in the interim, when the Quebecois triumphed over the lanky German player 6/4 4/6 6/3 on the Sydney hardcourt, he beat a top-three player for the first time in his career. “The way Felix played was amazing,” said Shapovalov at a press conference. “Zverev is one of the very best players in the world today. I think Felix can beat anyone.” Auger-Aliassime sees this prestigious victory as a further step forward in his path to an even higher realm in the game, one built on hard work and dedication.
“It was a great match for my part, I can only be happy with the outcome, of course,” he told reporters. “I think I showed great things in my game today, things are moving in the right direction.” Though he forged the success alone, he was quick to refer to his fellow countryman in the post-match interview. “I feel that energy in my singles today with Denis winning the first match [7/6 4/6 6/3 against Jan-Lennard Struff after five consecutive defeats against the German player], the spirit was really high in the locker room after. So I kind of just, you know, kept that energy coming through the match and I played one of my best matches against Sascha.”
The 22-year-old left-hander and the 21-year-old right-hander see this osmosis as a key strength. “What Felix and I have is really special,” said Shapovalov, after Canada won the final against Spain, with Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime beating, respectively, Pablo Carreño Busta and Roberto Bautista Agut, both of them unbeaten in the ATP Cup until the final. “We've known each other since we were five, six years old. Getting here with each other and winning a title like this together is really special.” Earlier in the tournament, after the semi-final against Russia, led by Daniil Medvedev, who inflicted a severe 6/4 6/0 defeat on F2A, Shapovalov had already said, “I think this is one of the main reasons that allowed us to hang on in the important moments. Felix and I do a really good job supporting each other.”
“Winning together (with Denis Shapovalov) is really special” - Félix Auger-Aliassime
“Looking back, it’s a pretty cool story,” said Auger-Aliassime after hoisting the trophy. “I remember when we won the Junior Davis Cup together in 2015. It was the first time that we won something important for our country and our respective careers. We'd been dreaming about it for a long time, always believing in it. We pushed each other in a very positive way, and that got us moving forward, I think. As Denis said, winning one of the biggest team titles in our sport together is really special. (...) I really hope this can inspire Canadian children, the next generation.”
And Auger-Aliassime has his thoughts on things other than talented young Canadians. With his results last week, he topped the 10,000-point mark for the #FAAPointsForChange project. With each rally won, he contributed an additional $5, supplemented by $15 from BNP Paribas, in favour of the protection and education of children in the Kara region in Togo. On an individual level, he returned to the world top ten. Having achieved his highest-ever ranking at number nine, he is off to a perfect start to achieve one of his main goals in 2022: to become a permanent fixture in the top ten. The talented young player is on his way to building a career commensurate with his dreams. Like a person armed with the ability to brick by brick build the Lego construction of their imagination...
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Roberto Bautista Agut
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