Auger-Aliassime to miss at least start of Davis Cup Finals for defending champion Canada
An injury to Canadian singles star Felix Auger-Aliassime forced captain Frank Dancevic to tinker with his lineup for Tuesday’s quarterfinal against Finland at the Davis Cup Final 8 in Malaga, Spain.
Auger-Aliassime, who clinched the victory for Canada in last year’s final against Australia, was dealing with a “lower-body issue,” a Tennis Canada spokesman said in an email while adding the athlete hasn’t been ruled out to play later in the week should Canada advance.
Auger-Aliassime is the lone Canadian singles player in the top-100 of the world rankings at No. 29. He reached a career-best No. 6 last year but his ranking has slipped due to a middling 2023 campaign. However, the 23-year-old showed strong form in successfully defending his Swiss Indoors title last month in Basel.
Denis Shapovalov, who won his singles match to help Canada to its title win a year ago, has battled knee issues this season and is not on the roster.
Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., was given the nod for the opening singles match against Patrick Kaukovalta at the Martin Carpena Arena and took it in straight sets, 6-3, 7-5. Montreal’s Gabriel Diallo was to play Otto Virtanen in the other singles match.
Raonic held at love in the opening game, winning all four points with aces, and lost just one point on serve in the opening set. The former world No. 3, who returned to the ATP Tour this season after an extended injury absence, closed out the win in a tidy 67 minutes.
WATCH | Raonic gives Canada early lead over Finland in Malaga, Spain:
Finland’s highest-ranked singles player — No. 69 Emil Ruusuvuori — was also out of the lineup. It wasn’t immediately clear why he was not available.
Raonic, who played a handful of tour events this season after an extended injury absence, is ranked No. 318 in the world.
The former world No. 3 showed he can still hang at the top level when he upset American Frances Tiafoe, then ranked 10th in the world, at the National Bank Open in Toronto last summer.
Diallo, an up-and-coming player who has enjoyed success on the lower-level Challenger circuit this season, is the world No. 139.
Vasek Pospisil of Vernon, B.C., and Alexis Galarneau of Laval, Que., are tabbed to play doubles against Harri Heliovaara and Patrik Niklas-Salminen.
Pospisil, who has a 31-24 career record in Davis Cup play, won all four of his matches in the group stage this year.
WATCH | Canada advances to Davis Cup Final 8 on Galarneau victory:
The winning team will advance to Friday’s semifinal against the winner of Wednesday’s quarterfinal between the Czech Republic and Australia.
In the bottom half of the Final 8 draw, Italy will play the Netherlands and Serbia will take on Britain. The final was scheduled for Sunday.
Canada beat Finland 4-1 on outdoor clay in their only previous Davis Cup matchup in 1966 in Helsinki, Finland.
The last country to win two straight Davis Cup crowns was the Czechs in 2012 and 2013.
Canada showed its depth in the group stage in mid-September as Galarneau and Diallo teamed with Pospisil in wins over Chile, host Italy and Sweden in Bologna, Italy.
Finland, meanwhile, upset the United States and Croatia to secure its first appearance in this knockout stage of the top team event in men’s tennis.
WATCH | Canada captures 1st-ever Davis Cup in 2022: