MALAGA, SPAIN – November 20, 2023 – Defending champions Canada will start off the 2023 Davis Cup Finals in Malaga on Tuesday, facing Finland in the first quarterfinal. Led by Felix Auger-Aliassime, the No.1 team on the Davis Cup Nations Ranking will try to recreate the magic that led them to winning the country’s first ever Davis Cup in 2022, beating Australia in the final.
Auger-Aliassime, the best-ranked Canadian, is coming to this event in a very different state of affairs compared to last year. Ranked as high as number 6 exactly 12 months ago, the 23-year-old is now barely holding on to the top 30, after struggling both in health and form in 2023. But the Canadian has been known to find his best play in team events: ‘’This year has been more challenging, Auger-Aliassime confirmed in the team’s pre-tournament interviews. But I think the most important for me personally, I think for everybody here, is whenever we come as a team, we always have a belief that we can win, and everybody has belief in their teammates.’’
Belief is what Canada showed in the Finals group stage in Bologna in September. Without Auger-Aliassime and with Denis Shapovalov sidelined with an injury, the team relied on Gabriel Diallo, Alexis Galarneau and Vasek Pospisil, all out of the top 100 of the Pepperstone ATP rankings, to fight for a spot in the Finals. Against all odds, the trio stepped up to go undefeated against strong opposition and finish in first place in Group A, notably by upsetting Italy in a surprise 3-0 victory.
On Tuesday, there will be uncertainty surrounding Diallo, who is recovering from an injury he sustained last week in a Challenger at home in Calgary. Up to then, the 22-year-old had been in great form, including winning the title indoors in Bratislava a few weeks back. While Diallo was seen practicing in the past few days in Malaga, both Alexis Galarneau and team veteran Milos Raonic will be ready to step up as No. 2 singles this week if required.
Currently ranked at No. 14 on the Davis Cup Nation’s Ranking, their best ranking since the rankings were introduced in 2001, Finland will rely on Emil Ruusuvuori as their No. 1 player. In the Qualifiers in March, Ruusuvuori played a crucial role in the team’s victory over Argentina, winning both his singles matches, as well as doubles with partner Harri Heliovaara. At the Finals group stage in September, he went 2-1, including a surprise win against Tommy Paul in an unexpected defeat of USA, to help Finland finish in 2nd place in Group D and advance to the quarterfinals for the first time.
The Finn, who is fighting a shoulder injury, will be trying to get is first win over Auger-Aliassime, losing their previous encounter in a tight five setter at the 2022 Australian Open. At No. 2, Otto Virtanen, who went undefeated at the Finals group stage, should face Diallo for the first time. In the event of a deciding doubles rubber, considering Ruusuvuori’s injury, it is unsure who will partner former top-10 doubles player Harri Heliovaara against Auger-Aliassime and Vasek Pospisil, a former Wimbledon champion in doubles.
Matches will start at 4.00pm local time at the Palacio de Deportes Jose Maria Martin Carpena. The remaining quarterfinals will be played on Wednesday and Thursday, while semifinals and finals will be held between Friday and Sunday. For more information, visit www.daviscup.com.