September 14, 2018
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
It was a tale of two matches in the opening day of Davis Cup featuring Canada and Netherlands. Milos Raonic cruised to a straight-set victory over Thiemo De Bakker 6-3, 6-2, 6-2. Denis Shapovalov, on the other hand, had to come back from two sets to love down in his match against Robin Haase, beating him in five sets 3-6, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4. Raonic used his powerful serve and return to overpower De Bakker. Shapovalov raised his game in the final three sets, displaying tremendous tenacity in those crucial moments.
Canada now takes a 2-0 lead over the Netherlands, only needing to win one of the next three matches to secure the tie in the Davis Cup. For Shapovalov, it is a dream come true for him to secure this victory.
“As a kid, you grow up dreaming to play Davis Cup,” said Shapovalov. “Playing for your country, it is such a huge honour. It feels pretty great to get the job done in front of the home fans.”
Raonic Utilizes Powerful Serve in Comfortable Victory
Coming into the Davis Cup, questions once again revolved around Milos Raonic’s physical condition. At the US Open against John Isner, Raonic needed treatment on his lower back, raising doubt once again if he could physically be ready for the Davis Cup.
But the Canadian put all the skepticism to rest as he cruised past Thiemo De Bakker. In the first set, it appeared that Raonic would steamroll his Dutch opponent after he claimed the first break of the match. But De Bakker came back the game after getting a break of his own. Showcasing his toughness under pressure, Raonic was able to gather himself, breaking the Dutchman for the second consecutive service game. It was at that point where the top-ranked Canadian took control of the set and match.
“It was definitely key twice that it happened. Just because he played a few good points, I played a few loose points in those games,” said Raonic. “I was struggling a bit with my serve in the first set. But after consolidating the break, I returned very well and kept a good level throughout the whole match, putting pressure on De Bakker.”
For the match, Raonic had 21 aces, winning 67 percent of his first serve points. But winning 54 percent of points on De Bakker’s second serve proves that Raonic was returning the ball brilliantly and utilizing his powerful groundstrokes and movement. Growing up just north of Toronto and hearing the support of the Canadian fans, Raonic agrees that tennis events held in urban centers enhance the reputability and entertainment of the sport.
“I think this event held in Toronto has very unique possibilities. A quarter of Canadians live in the Greater Toronto Area. It provides a fantastic opportunity to grow the sport of tennis in this region of Canada. Canadians do come out and support their country stars in the sport of tennis. And we are seeing it already at the Davis Cup” says Raonic.
Raonic, now 27-years old, has plenty of Davis Cup experience under his belt. No longer is he the youngster starting out. He is the seasoned veteran, playing tennis up to the expectations that the fans and tennis world place on him. Raonic now sees his Davis Cup experience as an opportunity to be a mentor to the younger players, particularly Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime.
“You start out as the waterboy. You are there and ready to go at a moment’s notice. I know what I need to do to produce the best tennis. It is nice to have that atmosphere of camaraderie and teammates. There is more of us on tour but fighting different schedules. This is the first time I’ve had the chance to spend time with Denis and Felix and I am grateful for the time to get to know them more.”
Shapovalov Completes Comeback From Two Sets Down
While Raonic showed such poise in his opening Davis Cup, the same was not true for Denis Shapovalov. In his opening Davis Cup match, Shapovalov struggled in the first two sets, generating 32 unforced errors and only breaking Haase once. But in the final three sets, Shapovalov demonstrated tremendous fight and perseverance. At 5-5 in the third set, he staved off six break point chances for Haase, eventually winning the third set 7-5. In the final set, he was down a break to Haase. The next game, Shapovalov breaks back. That shows heart.
In the final three sets, Shapovalov had 39 winners and was incredibly impressive on Haase’s serve, breaking him four times in the final three sets.
“In those moments of adversity, I raised my game. It was critical to save those break points and to just keep digging deep in the fifth set. I give all the credit to my team and Frank Dancevic for lifting me up when I was down. This was a team effort,” exclaimed Shapovalov.
This is the second time this year that Shapovalov has taken on Haase. The last time these two met, Haase won in straight sets at the Rogers Cup in Toronto 7-5, 6-2. In today’s match, while Haase started the match off with dominant serving, it was Shapovalov who utilized his complete arsenal of weapons to complete this stunning comeback. For the match, the Canadian generated 55 winners and won 73 percent of his first serve points. Growing up near Toronto, Shapovalov used the crowd to will himself to the finish line to pull off the epic comeback.
“The Davis Cup is not Wimbledon. It has a football-like atmosphere,” said Shapovalov. “The Davis Cup is one of the only events on Tour that generates this much excitement and national pride. It is an incredible feeling and the crowd support here today has been unbelievable.”
Denis Shapovalov has been victorious in the big matches on the Canadian stage. He beat Rafael Nadal at the Rogers Cup in Montreal. Now at the Davis Cup on Canadian soil, he adds another big stage win to the history books by beating Haase. Canada at the Davis Cup has been involved in historic five set matches in the past. 41 years ago, Canadian Dale Power prevailed in a five-set thriller over Colombia’s Alvaro Betancoeur, setting the mark for the most amount of games in a single set with 46.
Now it is Shapovalov’s turn to etch himself into Canada sports history, with a five set comeback win for the ages in the amphitheater of a raucous Canadian crowd.