Shapo’s big rally gives Canada 2-0 edge

Saskatoon StarPhoenix - - SPORTS - JOHN CHI­D­LEY-HILL

TORONTO De­nis Shapo­valov looked across the hard court and saw Robin Haase was start­ing to get tired. Shapo­valov had lost the first two sets of their five-set Davis Cup match but could sense his op­po­nent was los­ing his legs.

Over a gru­elling three hours and 35 min­utes, Shapo­valov wore down Haase for the win as Canada took a 2-0 lead over the Nether­lands on Fri­day night in the sec­ond rub­ber of their Davis Cup tie.

“Af­ter win­ning the third I just got pumped and I saw that he was slowly get­ting tired,” said Shapo­valov, 19. “In the fourth and the fifth I felt like I had more mo­men­tum, I was the bet­ter player, a lit­tle bit more fresh, and I was con­trol­ling most of the points.”

Shapo­valov, from Rich­mond Hill, Ont., strug­gled with his re­turns in the first two sets, but pre­vailed 3-6, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4.

The most evenly matched pair­ing of the five-match in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion, Shapo­valov is No. 34 on the ATP Tour’s world rank­ings and Haase is 44th. They were 1-1 in their pre­vi­ous ATP Tour matches.

Shapo­valov fell be­hind in the tightly con­tested fifth set, trail­ing 3-1, but took back-to-back games to tie it. Haase took a 4-3 lead, but Shapo­valov came right back, win­ning the next quickly.

He took his first lead of the set at 5-4 when Haase’s re­turn went into the net. Shapo­valov then put away the match with a strong re­turn down the line that Haase stopped short on. Canada cap­tain Frank Dance­vic tack­led Shapo­valov on the court, hug­ging him, with teammates Mi­los Raonic, Daniel Nestor, Vasek Pospisil and Felix Auger-Alias­sime join­ing in the cel­e­bra­tions.

“That’s one of the mo­ments you’re never go­ing to for­get in your life,” Shapo­valov said. “There was so much emo­tion, es­pe­cially in the fifth set. To ac­tu­ally pull the come­back off, to ac­tu­ally win it, it was un­be­liev­able.”

Shapo­valov’s win came af­ter Raonic, from Thornhill, Ont., man­han­dled Thiemo de Bakker in three sets in the first rub­ber of the draw. Raonic over­pow­ered de Bakker 6-3, 6-2, 6-2, re­ly­ing on his big serve for 23 aces to the Dutch­man’s three.

“Maybe it does set the tone in some ways, but as much as this is a team event, once you step out on the court you’re there try­ing to fig­ure out your own things,” said Raonic, who is the top-ranked Cana­dian on the ATP Tour, No. 20. “Ten­nis, no mat­ter what, will be an in­di­vid­ual sport other than dou­bles. Those things don’t change.”

Played in Coca-Cola Col­i­seum at Toronto’s Ex­hi­bi­tion Place, home of the Amer­i­can Hockey League’s Toronto Mar­lies, the two matches had a hockey at­mos­phere. Fans wore red and white, waved Cana­dian flags, banged drums, and clapped thun­der­sticks.

Sev­eral times the chair um­pire had to ask fans to quiet down with a terse “please,” or “thank you.” That did not sat­isfy Dutch cap­tain Paul Haarhuis, who felt two fans were dis­tract­ing Haase dur­ing serves.

“There’s only one way to stop it and that’s if you say ‘stop it or you get a warn­ing’ and the ref­eree didn’t do jack,” said Haarhuis.

Nestor and Pospisil team up on Satur­day in the dou­bles rub­ber, fac­ing Matwe Mid­delkoop and Jean-Julien Ro­jer.

The sin­gles matchups will flip on Sun­day, with Raonic play­ing Haase and Shapo­valov fac­ing de Bakker.

De­nis Shapo­valov

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