While, on paper, Canada lined up the strongest team in singles for this final phase of the Davis Cup in Malaga, Félix Auger-Aliassime (6th ATP) and Denis Shapovalov (18th ATP) admit defeat as soon as they enter the running, Thursday evening, in the quarter-finals, against Germany. But they got away with it, in the decisive double (2-1).
It all started badly, because of a Jan Lennard Struff who has a rather festive relationship with the Davis Cup this year. At 32, the former 29th in the world has dropped dramatically in the ATP rankings (152nd this week) but, armed with his heavy strikes and the support of his bench, the German has had his best matches of the season in this competition by teams.
This is how he beat Benjamin Bonzi last September, in Hamburg, during the qualifying phase, and this is how he managed to pick up the will-o’-the-wisp Denis Shapovalov, Thursday, at the start of the quarter-final pitting his people against the Canadians. He could not have recovered from the two missed match points at 5-3 then 5-4 in the last set, but it was he who flew over the decisive tie-break (7-2) to give the advantage to Germany (6-3, 5-6, 7-6 in 2h05).
Krawietz and Puetz are no longer 100%
In the process, Félix Auger-Aliassime was sufficiently authoritarian on his commitments to dominate Oscar Otte (65th) and put the two teams in a tie (7-6 6-4 in 1h42) with three times more winning shots (36 against 12) and one unforced error less (16 against 17) than his opponent.
As in the Italy-United States quarter at the start of the day (2-1 for Fabio Fognini and Co), it was a decisive double that determined the winner. And in that game, Germany had two superb specialists with Tim Puetz and Kevin Krawietz, who played this Thursday, respectively, their 13th and 12th double in the Davis Cup, each with 100% wins so far.
When they won the first set hands down, taking Pospisil’s serve twice (6-2), the odds were extremely favorable to them, but the Canadians were able to raise their level of play to equalize at one set everywhere before to drive the point home by breaking Krawietz blanc, 1-1 in the third, and to send their team to the semi-finals just after midnight (2-6, 6-3, 6-3 in 1h45). It will be against Italy on Saturday from 1 p.m.