After scoring impressive victories in their respective opening matches, home nation, Australia and Canada go head-to-head on Sunday in a top-of-the-table clash in Brisbane.
Inspired by Nick Kyrgios and Alex De Minaur, Australia swept past Germany 3-0 in their tournament opener, while Canada recorded identical success against Greece, with their two young guns, Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime starring in the 3-0 win.
Both nations met in the Davis Cup in November, with Canada claiming a 2-1 victory in the quarter final tie. Sunday’s meeting doesn’t carry those heavy knock-out consequences, but it will play a significant role in deciding which teams qualify for the quarter finals from Group F.
Who will get the win on Sunday to take control of the group?
Sick vibes today. Thank you ?? for the support ????. Who’s watching back in Canada? ? pic.twitter.com/WDe254hChV
— Denis Shapovalov (@denis_shapo) January 3, 2020
AUSTRALIA ??: 1. Alex de Minaur 2. Nick Kyrgios 3. John Millman 4. John Peers 5. Chris Guccione. Captain: Lleyton Hewitt.
CANADA ??: 1. Denis Shapovalov 2. Felix Auger-Aliassime 3. Steven Diez 4. Adil Shamasdin 5. Peter Polansky. Captain: Adriano Fuorivia.
Rubber 1: Felix Auger-Aliassime (CAN) vs Nick Kyrgios (AUS), live from Brisbane from 10:00am local time/ 12:00am GMT
Nick Kyrgios and Felix Auger-Aliassime meet for the second time in an intriguing opener to this ATP Cup tie.
Both men began the tournament with respective straight sets victories, with Kyrgios beating Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff, 6-4 7-6, and Auger-Aliassime easing past Greece’s Mikhail Pervolarakis 6-1 6-3.
Kyrgios had lost to Struff in their most recent meeting in Madrid last year, but he got his revenge on Friday, edging a serve-dominated duel to take a 2-1 lead in his head-to-head with the German, and give Australia the early advantage in the tie. Alex De Minaur took down Alexander Zverev in the second match to seal the win for the hosts.
Kyrgios sent down 20 aces during the contest, won 87% of his first serve points, and did not face a single break point all through the match. In fact, there was just one break point on offer for either player- it fell to Kyrgios midway through the first set and was duly converted for the solitary break of the match.
“First match of the year is always going to be tough. To be honest, I was actually pretty happy with my performance. Obviously, I served well in crucial moments,” Kyrgios said.
Kyrgios had an inconsistent 2019- he was brilliant in winning ATP 500 titles in Acapulco and Washington, beating the likes of Rafael Nadal, Stan Wawrinka, Alexander Zverev, Stefanos Tsitsipas and Daniil Medvedev across the two tournaments, but he did not make any other quarter final outside those events.
He was never too far from controversy, unsurprisingly, and earned himself a suspended 16-week ban towards the end of last season. The ban will be activated should he get into any further trouble during a probation period of six months.
Kyrgios does have his problems, but he also showed his other side earlier this week when he pledged to donate $200 for every ace he serves in the Australian summer to victims of the devastating Australian bushfires .
He got off to a great start against Struff, firing 20 aces past the German, and he will be hoping to hit a few more when he confronts Auger-Aliassime on Sunday.
Auger-Aliassime is looking to build on a terrific 2019, when he rose from outside the top 100 to secure a year-end ranking of No. 21. He peaked at No. 17 during a brilliant campaign, making his first tour-level finals in Rio, Lyon and Stuttgart, and a maiden Masters 1000 semi-final in Miami.
Auger-Aliassime struggled with an ankle injury towards the end of the year, winning just two of his last eight ATP Tour matches. His ATP season ended with a second round defeat to Stefanos Tsitsipas in Shanghai, as he missed the Paris Masters and the Next Gen Finals due to his ankle problem. He was however part of the Canadian team to the Davis Cup Finals in Madrid, but he did not feature until the final match of the tournament, when he was beaten by Roberto Bautista-Agut as the North Americans fell to Spain in the title match.
He looked fit and sharp in his 2020 opener against the unheralded Michail Pervolarakis, easing to an expected 6-1 6-3 victory against the world No. 487.
“Truly feels good to be back on the court,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I didn’t know the opponent, also, so that’s a factor that is always challenging when you’re a player, and so I tried to focus on what I had to do. But I was happy that overall in the match I had a great first set, couldn’t ask any better, and I was able to be solid in the second. So overall very happy to be back.”
Things will get significantly tougher on Sunday when he runs into Nick Kyrgios in Brisbane.
Auger-Aliassime defeated Kyrgios in their only previous encounter, an incredibly tight 6-7 7-6 7-5 victory at Queen’s last year, and this should be another close one. Kyrgios always looks fired up for these team competitions, and there’s the extra incentive of playing in front of his home fans. If the Australian serves as well as he can, he’ll probably eke out a tough win against the supremely talented Canadian young gun.
Rubber Two: Denis Shapovalov (CAN) vs Alex De Minaur (AUS), live from Brisbane from 11:30am local time/ 1:30am GMT
Two of the finest 20-year-olds on the ATP Tour clash in the second rubber of this tie as Denis Shapovalov and Alex De Minaur go head-to-head for the second time in just over a month.
De Minaur defeated Shapovalov in their only previous tour-level meeting at the Davis Cup last November, but it was a bitter-sweet victory for the Australian, as his team lost the overall tie 2-1 to crash out of the competition.
Both young guns are now ranked inside the top 20 following impressive campaigns last season. Shapovalov finally claimed his maiden tour-level title in Stockholm, while he also made his first Masters 1000 final in Paris at the end of the year. He also contested semi-finals in Miami, Chengdu and Winston-Salem. The left-hander finally appeared to have found some previously missing consistency, and he is largely expected to kick on very strongly this year and push on for a place in the top ten.
He had a strong start to 2020, taking down reigning Nitto ATP Finals champion, Stefanos Tsitsipas in his ATP Cup opener. Neither man could force a break of serve during the match, but Shapovalov held his nerve in the tie breaks to secure a 7-6 7-6 victory.
“It’s definitely a huge win for me. Obviously, he had an unbelievable end to the season and he’s definitely one of the top players in the world right now. He’s got a great game. So to beat a guy like this in the first match of the year, it’s really special for me. It means a lot,” Shapovalov said.
Can he back up that win with another one against De Minaur on Sunday?
De Minaur went into his ATP Cup opener against Alexander Zverev with an 0-4 record against the German, and he looked to be sliding towards a fifth straight defeat when he trailed 4-6 2-4. However, the young Aussie launched a fierce fightback, rallying to secure a 4-6 7-6 6-2 victory as Zverev faded badly in the end.
It was the sort of fighting spirit that was a feature of his 2019 season, when he claimed his first tour level titles in Sydney, Atlanta and Zhuhai. He also made finals in Basel and the Next Gen ATP Finals in Milan, while he recorded his best Grand Slam performance by reaching the fourth round of the US Open.
De Minaur fought back from a set down to defeat Shapovalov in Madrid last November, can he stay unbeaten against the Canadian when they meet again on Sunday?
It’s an intriguing clash of styles, with Shapovalov always looking to make the play, and De Minaur, with his tremendous mobility and resolve, doing more of the defending. Mind you, the young Aussie isn’t just about defending. He takes the ball very early when he can and has generally added an offensive edge to his game over the past year.
It should be a brilliant contest, and can absolutely go either way, but I’m leaning slightly towards De Minaur to grind out another big win for the Aussies.
Rubber 3: Doubles Rubber (to follows singles rubbers)
Teams to be confirmed
Canada went with Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime for the doubles rubber against Greece, despite it being a dead rubber, perhaps to give them time to forge some more doubles understanding ahead of more difficult assignments. It could well be that Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime will take up plenty of doubles responsibilities throughout the tournament. Captain Adriano Fuorivia can also call on Peter Polansky, who has a career-high doubles ranking of 123rd, while 37-year-old Adil Shamasdin has been as high as 41st on the doubles rankings.
Australian captain, Lleyton Hewitt has the luxury of having doubles experts, Chris Cuccione and John Peers in his squad, both of whom are ranked inside the top 40, but he can also rely on the services of Nick Kyrgios, who is very capable of putting in a good doubles shift.