Less than two weeks after seeing the Canadian women crowned champions in the Billie Jean King Cup, the Canadian men return to Malaga, Spain with an opportunity to defend their historic Davis Cup title from a year ago.
Team Canada returns to the site of its first-ever victory at the international competition alongside seven other nations and brings a squad comprised of talent, pedigree and experience.
Felix Auger-Aliassime will be relied upon as the top-ranked Canadian singles player as heads into the event following a trying season which saw his ranking slip from 7th to 29.
Despite the bumpy season, which was set back by injuries, fans can be optimistic about his recent form on court.
The Montreal native recently defended his title at the Swiss Indoors in Basel and seems to have rediscovered his aggressive, athletic game, while dialling in his potent serve.
Felix was almost flawless last season in Davis Cup action, delivering for Canada in crucial moments, toppling two-time grand slam winner Carlos Alcaraz in September, then going a perfect 3-0 in singles in the knockout stage in November with a clinching straight-sets win over Alex de Minaur in the final.
Auger-Aliassime reflected on that historic title in Canada’s pre-tournament press conference.
“It was special to see the court again, it was such a special moment for me personally last year, winning the last match to clinch the title” said the 22-year-old.
“It’s nice to come back to a place where you have good memories. Hopefully, that can serve us well this week.”
Joining Auger-Aliassime are veterans Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil, and young talents Alexis Galarneau and Gabriel Diallo.
For Raonic, it’s a welcome return to one of the trailblazers of Canadian tennis for the better part of a decade.
The former 2016 Wimbledon finalist and former world No. 3 is back on the Davis Cup squad for the first time since 2018.
The 32-year-old missed the entirety of 2022 with injures, and some wondered if he’d ever return to the court, after the countless challenges he’s faced with his body.
Raonic answered those questions in June of this season, notching a win on the grass courts, competing in Wimbledon again and advancing to the second round, then scoring the best victory of his abbreviated year at the National Bank Open in Toronto, ousting the tenth-ranked Frances Tiafoe en route to a round of 16 appearance.
It’s unclear if Raonic will compete this week, but he says he’s prepared to help in any capacity.
It’s his 14th appearance for Canada in the event, and he’s 18-6 overall in Davis Cup play.
Pospisil could be nicknamed Captain Canada for his steadfast commitment to international competition throughout his career.
He’s played 31 ties dating back to 2008, is second all-time amongst Canadians in Davis Cup match wins and is one of nine grand slam champions in the field this week.
Though his ranking has slipped to 300th, Pospisil always seems to elevate his level in international play — he was a perfect 4-0 in group stage play back in September of this year and will be heavily relied upon in doubles.
Gabriel Diallo returns to the team, and while last year was spent on the sidelines rooting on his teammates, there’s a strong chance the Canadian plays a pivotal role in singles this time around.
After strong performances as a junior, Diallo attended the University of Kentucky and was a standout college star, helping guide his Wildcats to a championship in 2022.
2023 has seen major milestones for the Montreal native — Diallo recorded his first ATP main draw win at the National Bank Open, defeating Great Britain’s Dan Evans.
He helped Canada to a stunning upset of the Italians in the Davis Cup Finals group stage, beating world No. 18 Lorenzo Musetti in straight sets, and just last month won the Bratislava Open, the second ATP Challenger title of his career.
Diallo stands a tall six-foot-eight on the court and uses his big serve and punishing forehand to dictate play.
Joining him is friend and compatriot Alexis Galarneau, who should also be galvanized by his performance in the group stage.
The 24-year-old earned victories over top 50 competitor Lorenzo Sonego of Italy and Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo, who’s been ranked as high as 64th, and was also a perfect 3-0 in doubles, each time playing alongside Pospisil.
Galarneau, a native of Laval, Que., earned the first ATP Challenger title of his career this summer in Granby, and also reached the finals of the Columbus Challenger in September.
Canada opens its Davis Cup title defence Tuesday at 10 a.m. ET against Finland, who are led by world No. 68 Emil Ruusuvuori and world No. 171 Otto Virtanen.
Other Nations to Watch
There is a clear-cut reason the Serbians are contenders to win the Davis Cup crown, and that’s because of the one and only Novak Djokovic.
Yes, the world No. 1 and greatest of all time is set to join Serbia in Davis Cup competition, following his record-breaking 7th ATP Finals victory in Turin.
Djokovic has been in masterful form all season, going 55-6 with six titles and Grand Slam trophies at the Australian Open, Roland Garros, and US Open.
He’ll be a heavy favourite in any singles match he plays, while Serbia does have strong depth with Laslo Djere and Miomir Kecmanovic behind him.
They’ll open play in the quarterfinals against Great Britain.
The Australians finished runner-up to Canada last season and return a squad with a strong skillset, speed and depth.
It starts with 24-year-old de Minaur, who’s enjoyed his best season to date.
Affectionately known as Demon, the Sydney native has enjoyed a great run of success, with a title in Acapulco early in the season, finals run at the National Bank Open this summer and round of 16 appearances at both the US and Australian Open.
He reached a career-high ranking of 11 in early October and has won 44 matches on the year.
de Minaur’s immaculate movement and footwork trouble almost any opponent.
He’s joined by big serving Thanasi Kokkinakis, 29-year-old Jordan Thompson and Matthew Ebden and Max Purcell, who have each won two doubles titles this season.
Backed by three-time slam champion Captain Lleyton Hewitt, the Australians are in formidable shape heading into the competition.
They face Czechia on Wednesday.
It’s been 47 years since Italy won the Davis Cup.
This could mark their best chance to get back as champions.
World No. 4, Jannik Sinner.
[brightcove videoID=6333419888112 playerID=JCdte3tMv height=360 width=640]
The dynamic, aggressive and electric baseliner has been on a proper ascent up the rankings this season, collecting four titles, including a Masters 1000 in Toronto, and is fresh off a runner-up showing at the ATP Finals in Turin.
He’s the second-best singles player in the competition behind Djokovic, and just days ago managed to beat the Serbian in a thrilling three-set clash.
Sinner is joined by Lorenzo Musetti, another young talent, who strikes the ball beautifully and has a picturesque one-handed backhand.
Musetti has had an up-and-down campaign, though he’s still reached the semifinals of three events this season.
Lorenzo Sonego is also a strong option for the team as he has plenty of baseline firepower and competitive fortitude, while 38-year-old Simone Bolelli could serve as the backbone of the doubles squad – he is the oldest player at the event this season.
Italy meets the Netherlands in the quarterfinals on Thursday.