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Canadas Felix Auger Aliassime holds the trophy after Canada won the Davis Cup tennis tournament for the first time at the Martin Carpena sportshall, in Malaga on Nov. 27. Auger-Aliassime sealed tennis history for Canada by beating Australia 2-0.THOMAS COEX/AFP/Getty Images

Canada made tennis history on Sunday by beating Australia and hoisting the Davis Cup for the first time.

It was Félix Auger-Aliassime who secured the winning point at the Davis Cup finals in Malaga, Spain, in a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Alex de Minaur. Montreal’s world No. 6 fell to the ground in joy as a pile of his red-jacketed Canadian teammates sprinted out to jump on him in emotional celebration.

Among those players in the jubilant heap was his boyhood friend Denis Shapovalov, world No. 21, who set Canada off to a confident start in Sunday’s finals against Australia of the prestigious team event with a dominant 6-4, 6-2 win over Thanasi Kokkinakis.

Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov, then baby-faced teenagers in Madrid, had won the Junior Davis Cup in 2015, something that no Canadian boys had done.

“I remember us thinking, like, we are 15, 16, and we just won Junior Davis Cup, projecting ourselves winning this one day,” Auger-Aliassime said in the team’s virtual news conference on Sunday. “It’s cool to be in this position now, and it’s kind of full circle.”

Asked how they would celebrate, the Canadian team, which also includes veteran Vasek Pospisil, and youngsters Alexis Galarneau and Gabriel Diallo, medals hanging on their necks during the news conference, were giddy with laughter alongside team captain Frank Dancevic.

“I can assure you it’s going to be a really big one and we are definitely not going to sleep until the flight at 6 a.m.,” said Dancevic, who played on Canadian Davis Cup teams for 14 years. “We got those big champagne bottles on court? We’re planning to get even bigger ones tonight.”

Canada competed in its first Davis Cup in 1913. But in recent years, the country has been a rising force. Highlights include the Canadians getting back to the World Group in 2012, making the semi-finals in 2013, and the finals in 2019 – where it fell to powerhouse Spain.

Over the years, they leaned on men such as Pospisil, Dancevic, Milos Raonic, Daniel Nestor, and Peter Polansky. Soon Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime joined the mix. It hasn’t always been easy for Canada’s best to make the time for Davis Cup ties, as they juggled their careers on the ATP Tour. Now in 2022, they etch Canada onto the trophy. This is a reward for time invested in playing for their country.

“It’s incredible. I mean, definitely top career achievements to win Davis Cup,” said Pospisil, who has answered the call to play for Canada since 2008. “Over the years we have just slowly been growing closer and closer to getting the title. … I don’t know, it’s hard to explain, but beginning of the week it kind of felt like we were going to win it.”

At the final eight in Malaga this week, Canada beat Germany in the quarter-finals, and Italy in the semis. In front of nearly 10,000 spectators on Sunday, the Canadians finished the job and broke ground for the country. They downed Australia 2-0 without the need to play a deciding doubles match.

Auger-Aliassime, in the midst of the best stretch of his tennis career, won eight straight matches – five singles and three doubles – to help win the title, as Canada also defeated South Korea, Spain and Serbia to get to the finals.

The run is more concrete proof that Canada is indeed an elite tennis power.

“I mean, there were just too many great moments,” Shapovalov said when asked about his lasting memories of these finals.

He pointed to his doubles win with Pospisil in the quarter-finals against Germany, against an undefeated team, coming back from a set down. He pointed to Pospisil’s doubles victory with Italy, when Alliassime stepped in for Shapovalov.

“There were just too many great moments. I think the whole team on the side, Frankie, like everyone just putting their heart on the line day in and day out. It was really special.”

Canada’s road to the Davis Cup title

The Canadian men have excelled in team-format competition in recent years, beginning with their surprise run to the final of the first “new-format” Davis Cup in 2019.

They were defeated by the far more experienced Spanish team there.

But Félix Auger-Aliassime was just 19 then; Denis Shapovalov just 20.

Last January down in Australia, Canada won the ATP Cup, a new team competition with a similar format that featured even more of the world’s best players.

And on Sunday, it won the ultimate prize.

Auger-Aliassime didn’t commit to the preliminary final rounds in September until after a surprise early elimination at the U.S. Open a couple of weeks beforehand.

But he made the date and led Canada to qualification, without which Sunday would never have been possible.

He and Vasek Pospisil had to get it done without Shapovalov, who didn’t play.

Pospisil, 32 and a decade older than the team’s young stars, has always answered the call of his country. And on some occasions before their rise to prominence, he basically lifted the entire team on his shoulders and carried it to victory.

The return of Shapovalov to the fold for the final stages allowed Pospisil to focus on the doubles and gave Canada two top-25 singles players.

And Canada took full advantage of teams that were missing key elements.

Germany did not have Olympic gold medalist Alexander Zverev, who has been out with injury since June. Italy was missing its top two singles players: Jannik Sinner and Matteo Berrettini. And notably, Nick Kyrgios was not in the lineup for Australia. He is that country’s highest-ranked player in both singles and doubles.

So Canada boasted one of the best one-two singles punches in the event, and backed that up to become world champions.

The Canadian Press