MADRID — Canada beat the United States in the Davis Cup for the first time on Tuesday, defeating the Americans 2-0 on the second day of the revamped team competition to end a run of 15 straight losses.
Vasek Pospisil edged Reilly Opelka 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7) and Denis Shapovalov defeated Taylor Fritz 7-6 (6), 6-3 to give the Canadians an insurmountable lead in Group F of the inaugural Davis Cup Finals.
It was Canada’s first win in 16 meetings with the United States in the 119-year-old competition, although the teams had not played since 1965. The Americans had lost only three matches in total against their neighbours in the previous 15 meetings.
“It’s extremely disappointing because I felt like I definitely could have won, and it would have been big for the team,” Fritz said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t come up with the right shots at the right times sometimes. Ultimately, that’s why I lost.”
The result leaves the United States needing to beat Italy on Wednesday to have a chance of advancing to the knockout stage. Italy lost to Canada 2-1 in the opening group tie on Monday.
“This is the toughest group, I think, so there is no easy match.” U.S. team captain Mardy Fish said. “But you never know. We are going to go out there tomorrow and try to win the first one and try to put ourselves in position to do that.”
In the new Davis Cup format, teams play only two singles and a doubles match in each tie, with the group winners advancing along with the two best second-place finishers in the six groups.
The doubles match was not played.
“They’ve got a great team,” Fish said. “They’re going to be around for a long time … I imagine that we’re going to have quite a few battles with them over the years.”
The U.S. has won 32 Davis Cup titles, but its last came in 2007. If it fails to win in Madrid, it will equal the team’s longest gap between titles.
Opelka and Fritz said they were not surprised by the small number of American fans cheering for the team in the Spanish capital. The Canadians largely outnumbered the Americans and were much louder throughout the matches.
“Being an American tennis player, you are kind of used to not getting the support,” the 22-year-old Opelka said.
Fritz said there are just “more dedicated tennis fans in Canada.”
“I’m not going to lie, I think the U.S. has so many other great sports, tennis isn’t really the focus,” he said. “The Canadian fans were strong and they flew out and they came out. I don’t think it has anything to do with the federations or anything.”
The new Davis Cup is being played in a World Cup-style format with all 18 teams playing in a single venue in the same week, instead of the head-to-head confrontations that used to take place at varied sites over four weekends throughout the year.
“I think the new format is great,” Opelka said. “I think it is easier to follow, it’s easier to understand what’s going on. The tournament starts, the tournament ends, you have a winner, you know when it’s over. It’s not dragging on throughout the whole year.”
The revamped tournament is the result of a 25-year partnership between the International Tennis Federation and Kosmos, a group co-founded by Barcelona soccer player Gerard Pique. The ITF said the change was made to make the competition more attractive and lucrative.