Turns out Canada's Davis Cup run was not a fluke
Denis Shapovalov is leading another strong team showing at the ATP Cup
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Canada is suddenly a force in team tennis events
Remember back in late November when Canada almost won the Davis Cup? That was a big deal. The event has been around for 120 years, and this was the first time Canada made it to the final. It ended with a loss to the great Rafael Nadal and his Spain team, but it was still a testament to the depth of talent Canada now has in men's tennis. The leader of the team was Denis Shapovalov, who's currently ranked 14th in the world. No. 21 Felix Auger-Aliassime barely played as he was coming off an injury, but it didn't matter because of the heroics of veteran sub Vasek Pospisil. And Canada didn't even miss the injured Milos Raonic. With Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime only 20 and 19 years old, respectively, the future looked pretty bright when last season came to a close.
And now it looks like that Davis Cup run was no fluke. The 2020 season just started late last week with the ATP Cup in Australia. It's a brand-new event that's a near carbon copy of what we saw less than two months ago at the Davis Cup (yes, it's kind of silly to have two of these events, not to mention hold them back-to-back). Anyways, Shapo and Felix picked up right where Canada left off last year. Playing all the singles matches and teaming up for two of the three doubles matches, they led Canada to a 2-1 round-robin record with wins over Greece and Germany and a loss to host Australia. The Aussies (3-0) won the group, but Canada advanced to the eight-team knockout stage today by being one of the two best second-place teams in the tournament. It needed a myriad series of tiebreakers to go its way for this to happen, but still. Canada was ranked 16th coming into the tournament, so making the top eight is already a great result.
Next up is a quarter-final vs. world No. 2 Novak Djokovic and his top-ranked Serbia team. That's Thursday at 6 p.m. ET. The singles matches are Shapovalov vs. Djokovic, and Auger-Aliassime vs. 34th-ranked Dusan Lajovic. If you handicap those based on the world rankings, Shapo should lose to Djokovic and Felix should beat Lajovic. That would set up a doubles match to decide who advances. Canada would likely stick with the same two players there, though Adil Shamasdin also saw doubles action in the group stage. The other players on the Canadian roster are Steven Diez and Peter Polansky, but neither has seen the court yet. The winner of this quarter-final will face either Argentina or Russia in the semifinals Friday at 7 p.m. ET. The final is Sunday at 2:30 a.m. ET.
Reminder of how the format works: Each "tie" (that's what they call the matchup between two countries) is made up of two singles matches and one doubles match. The team that wins two of these matches wins the tie. Now that we're in the knockout stage, the team that loses the tie is eliminated from the tournament. If the tie is decided after the singles matches, they still play the doubles because there's prize money on the line (the exception to this is the championship final).
Canada's women will soon take the court for their own team event. The 58th edition of the Fed Cup starts in early February with the qualifying round. Canada is one of 16 teams competing for the last eight spots in the 12-team Fed Cups Finals. It needs to win its matchup with Switzerland to advance. Under a different format last year, Canada fell short of the eight-team final round. The Canadian women's team isn't as deep as the men's, but of course it has the country's top-ranked player in Bianca Andreescu. That's assuming she's healthy. Bianca skipped her scheduled Australian Open tuneup this week as she continues to recover from a knee injury.
Sounds like Tom Brady is coming back. The six-time Super Bowl champ will turn 43 before the start of next season, and he looked ancient down the stretch — including last weekend's dismal first-round playoff loss to Tennessee. Retirement seemed like a possibility, but he's talking like a guy who wants to keep going. In a long Instagram post sprinkled with references to Teddy Roosevelt quotes, Brady closed by saying that, after failure, you can "pick yourself up with great enthusiasm and place yourself in the arena again. And that's right where you will find me. Because I know I still have more to prove." The question now is where he'll play. Brady is about to become an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his life. So he'll be able to choose whether to stay with New England, where he's spent his entire career, or go to another team. Read more about Brady's post and see it here.
Canadian canoe star Laurence Vincent Lapointe has to wait longer to find out if she'll be allowed in the Olympics. The gold-medal favourite was provisionally suspended back in the summer after testing positive for a small amount of Ligandrol, a banned muscle-building drug that is also illegal in Canada. Vincent Lapointe insisted that the drug must have entered her body unintentionally — possibly via a tainted nutritional supplement. She had a hearing in December with her sport's governing body, which was supposed to issue a final decision within 30 days. But the governing body now says it needs more time. Vincent Lapointe's lawyer said he expects a ruling in two weeks, and that he remains confident she'll be cleared. If that happens, she might win two gold medals at this summer's Tokyo Olympics. Vincent Lapointe won 200-metre singles gold at six of the last seven world championships she competed in, and she's also won four world titles in the 500m doubles event. Women's canoeing will be on the Olympic program for the first time this year, and those are the two races. Read more about Vincent Lapointe's situation here.
Canada's best short track speed skater is still hurt. Kim Boutin hoped her injured knee would be healed in time to compete in this weekend's Four Continents Championships in Montreal. But it was announced today that she won't. Boutin, who captured three medals at the 2018 Olympics, has won six individual World Cup races already this season. She hopes to resume regular training in a few weeks and return for the remaining World Cups and the world championships. Read more about her injury here.
Russia is not banned from the Youth Olympic Games. This wasn't initially covered in yesterday's Youth Olympics explainer, so thanks to reader Cam for bringing it up. Russia, you may remember, is not allowed to send an official team to this year's regular Olympics because of its repeated (and egregious) doping violations. But that's not the case at the Winter Youth Olympic Games, which open tomorrow in Switzerland. Russia is being treated like a normal country there. One more Youth Olympics note: curling is also among the sports that will feature a mixed-nationality event. Players from two different countries will partner up in mixed doubles. Thanks to Scott Arnold of the World Curling Federation for pointing out that omission in the explainer. Also, a reminder that CBC Sports is live streaming the opening ceremony Thursday at 2 p.m. ET, and then every single day of competition. Day 1 starts Friday at 4 a.m. ET. Watch all the live streams here.
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