ATP Cup Team Profile: Canada and Denis Shapovalov

Canada’s biggest problem going into the 2021 ATP Cup isn’t a lack of quality players–it’s the opposite. The Canadian lineup is much stronger than the previous season. The likes of Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime (unlucky to miss out this year) have progressed massively since the maiden tournament in 2020. Canada finished second in their group last year, winning two of three matches against Greece and Germany but losing to Australia. Despite this they managed to qualify for the quarterfinals. They lost 3-0 to eventual winners Serbia, the closest encounter between Shapovalov and Novak Djokovic going to a third set tie-break. Canada will look to build on a promising campaign with a year’s more experience under their belt.

Denis Shapovalov:

Seemingly an emerging talent at the time, Denis Shapovalov earned plenty of plaudits following his run at the 2020 ATP Cup. His opening match saw the Canadian best World No.6 Stefanos Tsitsipas in straight sets–the Greek fresh off his Nitto ATP Finals victory. What followed was a closely contested encounter with Australia’s Alex de Minaur, with Shapovalov losing in the third set. His most dominant performance came at the expense of Alexander Zverev, beating the German 6-2 6-2 to secure a place in the quarterfinals. He also won both doubles matches with partner Felix Auger-Aliassime against Greece and the established doubles pairing of Kraweitz and Mies of Germany. Canada was knocked out by Serbia, with Denis losing in three sets against Djokovic despite a strong showing.

Shapovalov in 2020:

Shapovalov’s first tournament outside of the ATP Cup saw him lose in the quarterfinals of Auckland, beating teammate Vasek Pospisil before losing to eventual winner Ugo Humbert. 2020 was Shapovalov’s worst showing at the Australian Open, failing to match his 2019 third round triumph by crashing out in the first round to Marton Fucsovics. He suffered the same fate against Grigor Dimitrov in Rotterdam but not before losing to Pospisil in Montpellier in the Round of 16. His final tournament before the pause in the season came at Marseille, losing in the quarterfinal to the eccentric Alexander Bublik.

His return to action came in America, firstly at the Cincinnati Masters where Shapovalov beat former US Open Champion Marin Cilic. He eventually lost to Jan-Lennard Struff in the following round. Denis’ best run at a Grand Slam came at the US Open. The Canadian overcame the likes of Taylor Fritz and Sebastian Korda before a Top 10 victory against David Goffin in the fourth round. His surge for the title came to a halt at the hands of Pablo Carreno Busta in the quarterfinals. His fine form continued into the Rome Masters, avenging his loss to Grigor Dimitrov before one of the most evenly contested matches of the year in the semifinal. Shapovalov lost to Diego Schwartzman, only a single point separating the two. This run was enough for Denis to break into the Top 10 for the first time in his career.

Shapovalov could not carry this form into the French Open, losing to Roberto Carballes Baena in the Round of 16. He went on to make the semifinal of St. Petersburg, losing to eventual winner Andrey Rublev before a string of first match dismissals at Cologne, Vienna, and Sofia.

Shapovalov at the 2021 ATP Cup:

Shapovalov’s run at the 2021 ATP Cup will prove harder than last year’s, being drawn into the “Group of Death” alongside Germany and Serbia. This means he will face Alexander Zverev for the second year running following his win last year. Shapovalov has won the previous two meetings between the NextGen stars, but Zverev remains on top winning their previous three including their semifinal meeting in Canada. Zverev went on to win his maiden ATP Masters 100 title. Novak Djokovic is an opponent Shapovalov is all too familiar with, failing to beat the Serbian in their five matches. Djokovic not only beat the Canadian last year, but also in Denis’ first Masters 1000 final in Paris.

Milos Raonic:

Milos Raonic makes the Canadian ATP 2021 roster after a strong showing in 2020 at the expense of Felix Auger-Aliassime. The 2016 Wimbledon finalist currently sits at 15th in the rankings, previously representing Canada in the Davis and Hopman Cups.

Raonic in 2020:

Raonic’s 2020 season did not start as positively as he would have hoped, seeded 4th in Doha but losing his only match to eventual finalist Corentin Moutet. He regained form in the Australian Open with a strong run to the quarterfinals. The Canadian saw off World No.6 Stefanos Tsitsipas and former US Open Champion Marin Cilic in straight sets. He eventually lost to eight-time champion Novak Djokovic. He lost his only match in New York before making the semifinal, falling to (once again) the champion–this time Reilly Opelka.

Raonic’s strongest performance of the 2020 season came at the Cincinnati Masters where the 30-year-old made his fourth Masters 1000 final. He beat the likes of Daniel Evans and a resurgent Andy Murray before saving a match point against Filip Krajinovic to make the semifinal. Here he recorded his second victory of the year over 2019 Nitto ATP Finals winner Stefanos Tsitsipas before a second season loss to Novak Djokovic despite winning the opening set 6-1. Raonic crashed out of the US Open to fellow countryman Vasek Pospisil. He then lost to Dusan Lajovic in the Round of 32 at Rome, the two meeting later this week in 2021 ATP Cup. He once again recaptured form for the final three tournaments of the season. In St Petersburg, Raonic lost to finalist Borna Coric in the semifinal after upsetting Karen Khachanov on home turf.

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He fell one short of this feat in Antwerp by losing to Grigor Dimitrov in the quarterfinal. Raonic closed the year by making the semifinal of the Paris Masters, and for the third time, lost to the eventual winner of a tournament, this time at the hands of Daniil Medvedev, who won in straight sets.

Raonic at the 2021 ATP Cup:

As the Canadian second string player, Raonic makes his ATP Cup debut against Dusan Lajovic of Serbia and Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany. Raonic and Lajovic have met twice on the ATP tour and share the honors, the Serbian winning the latest of their matches, at Rome last year. Raonic won their first encounter at Cincinnati in 2018. Lajovic, however, already has won the ATP Cup with Serbia last year. Struff was in the Germany team that faced Canada last year, getting the better of Felix Auger-Aliassime before being knocked out. The two have faced three times, Raonic winning twice, including their clash at Wimbledon in 2017.

Steven Diez:

World No.180 Steven Diez makes his ATP Cup debut alongside Raonic at this years tournament despite being the third string player at the maiden tournament. Diez was part of the Canadian roster that made the quarterfinals but the doubles pairing of Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime was often favoured. Diez will be hoping to make an impact this year following a series of quarterfinal and semifinal appearances on the Challenger Tour. The 29-year-old made the doubles semifinals of Marbella and Prague as well as his strongest showing at a Grand Slam. He qualified for the first round of the French Open before losing to Mackenzie McDonald despite taking the opening set.

Diez at the 2021 ATP Cup:

Once again the third player in the Canadian Roster, Diez will be looking to make an impact in the doubles action at the 2021 ATP Cup. He’s matched alongside Filip Krajinovic of Serbia–the World No.31 previously having made the final of the Paris Masters in 2017. He also made consecutive semifinal appearances in Montpellier and Rotterdam, losing to Gael Monfils both times. Germany have Kevin Krawietz as their third player, forming an effective doubles partnership with Andreas Mies. The two have won consecutive French Open Doubles titles.

Peter Polansky:

Captain of the Canadian team for the first time, Peter Polansky represents Canada as the fourth player having played at the ATP Cup in 2020. Polansky made a singular appearance at the tournament last year, playing doubles alongside Adil Shamasdin but losing to Serbia in the quarterfinals. Currently ranked 220th, the Canadian is more commonly known for his time in the Challenger circuit winning 19 titles. The latest came in Columbus, United States in 2019. Polansky also has 20 doubles titles to his name at Challenger and ITF level. In 2018 he became the first man to qualify for all four Grand Slam tournaments as a “lucky loser”.

Polansky at the 2021 ATP Cup:

Polansky will hope for more success at the 2021 ATP Cup representing Canada as the fourth player. He will play doubles against the likes of Nikola Cacic and Andreas Mies. Cacic has two ATP tour titles to his name, winning the double in both Chengdu and the Open Sud de France. Mies makes up the second part of the infamous Krawietz and Mies doubles pairing, famous for winning the French Open in 2019 as an unseeded pair. The pair also reached the semifinal of the US Open in 2019.

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