Tennis

Teen pals Shapovalov, Auger-Aliassime shoulder the load in Canada's Davis Cup tie vs. Slovakia

Captain Frank Dancevic is going with youth over experience for Canada's Davis Cup tie against Slovakia this week at NTC Arena.

Veteran Milos Raonic unavailable because of knee injury

Denis Shapovalov is hugged by Canadian Davis Cup captain Frank Dancevic after his clinching win over the Netherlands in September. (Jon Blacker/Canadian Press)

Captain Frank Dancevic is going with youth over experience for Canada's Davis Cup tie against Slovakia this week at NTC Arena.

Teenagers Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime were selected by Dancevic on Thursday to play both singles and doubles in the best-of-five qualifier. Martin Klizan and Filip Horansky will play singles for the host side while Filip Polasek and Igor Zelenay are tabbed for doubles.

Singles matches are set for Friday on the indoor clay court at the 4,500-seat venue. The doubles match will go Saturday ahead of reverse singles.

The 19-year-old Shapovalov is 25th in the ATP Tour world rankings, the highest position of any under-20 player. He'll open against Horansky, who's ranked 219th in singles. Auger-Aliassime, the highest-ranked 18-year-old on Tour at No. 106, will take on the 38th-ranked Klizan.

Eighteen-year-old Felix Auger-Aliassime is being counted on by Canadian Davis Cup captain Frank Dancevic in this weekend's tie against Slovakia. (Mark Blinch/Canadian Press)

The winning team will advance to the Davis Cup finals this November in Madrid.

Both Canadians are athletic, dynamic players with strong ball-striking skills. Shapovalov broke through in 2017 and has enjoyed a steady rise up the world rankings while Auger-Aliassime is one of the sport's top prospects.

Shapovalov, from Richmond Hill, Ont., and Auger-Aliassime, from Montreal, rose up through the junior ranks together. They teamed up to win the US Open junior doubles crown in 2015.

"These guys are ticking all the boxes when it comes to what it takes to be a top player," retired player and former teammate Daniel Nestor said in a recent interview.

Davis Cup veteran Peter Polansky of Thornhill, Ont., and Dancevic, from Niagara Falls, Ont., are also on the Canadian player roster. World No. 14 Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., is not available due to a knee injury.

Shapovalov has a 5-3 record over five previous Davis Cup appearances. He came from two sets down to beat Robin Haase of the Netherlands last September in Canada's last tie.

"I know Denis is up for this and I think it's going to be great for Felix because it'll be really his first tie (since) he didn't play in September and he's a good clay courter," Tennis Canada president and CEO Michael Downey said this week in Toronto.

Canada is 16th in the current Davis Cup rankings, 13 positions higher than Slovakia.

"We are mainly going to focus on our strengths, on our game styles and on what we have to do to play well and win three matches," Dancevic told reporters in Bratislava after the draw.

Canada dropped a 4-1 decision to Slovakia in their lone previous Davis Cup meeting in 1997 at Montreal.

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