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An unfortunate ending closed out a hard-fought weekend at Canada’s Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group first-round tie against Great Britain at TD Place in Ottawa on Sunday. After Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil defeated his British No. 1 counterpart Daniel Evans 7-6(3), 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(5) to force the fifth and deciding rubber, Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont. was defaulted at 2-1 in the third set of the final match.
Seventeen-year-old Shapovalov was trailing Kyle Edmund 6-3, 6-4, 2-1 when he unintentionally struck the chair umpire with a ball. As per ITF rules, he was automatically defaulted for unsportsmanlike conduct.
“I would just like to begin with apologizing to the referee, and to all ITF officials,” Shapovalov said in his official statement following the match. “I went back and spoke to the referee after and apologized right to him. Luckily he was okay, but obviously it was unacceptable behaviour from me and to be honest I feel just incredibly ashamed and embarrassed. I just feel awful for letting my team down, letting my country down, for acting in a way that I would never want to act. I can promise that it’s the last time I will do anything like that. I’ve learned from this and am going to try and move past it. I was very lucky the referee was okay, but this is unacceptable for me.”
Canadian Davis Cup captain Martin Laurendeau stood behind his selection and gave his thoughts on the sudden turn of events.
“It was just a lesson that he will take from this and move forward,” he said. “He’s a kid as you see, he wants to face the music, and he’s not going to shy away. He’s got some great talent and it’s just the beginning of his career. He’ll draw a big lesson from this. It’s a tough sport; you can’t compete if you don’t have emotional control and this lesson could serve him for the rest of his career, but there’s a lot of things you can take from this. Hopefully he’s able to move forward stronger from this.”
Despite the loss, a bright point of the day was Pospisil’s match earlier in the day which kept his country alive by evening the tie up at 2-2. World No. 133 Pospisil fed off the energy of another record-setting crowd of 7,497 to defeat the No. 45-ranked Evans. He recorded 25 aces in the three hour and 23-minute contest and rallied back in the fourth set to clinch the win.
“This is Davis Cup, it’s a lot more emotional,” Pospisil said on the impact of the crowd. “I like playing in front of big crowds, and of course if they’re behind me it’s that much better. I get very motivated because this is Davis Cup, because this is Canada. It was great. It was awesome. At one point, when pretty much everybody started screaming, I think that’s one of the loudest atmospheres that I’ve been in for sure.”
“I thought it was a great weekend of tennis,” Laurendeau said on the whole tie as a whole. “The crowd was unbelievable, from the Friday afternoon I’ve never been to such an impressive stadium that full on a Friday afternoon and they were behind us from the first stroke of the ball all the way to the last. They raised Vasek’s level of tennis, which he needed. He needed this kind of weekend, it’s exactly what he needed to springboard him to better things to come. That was a great moment for Vasek and all of our team, it didn’t stop us from preparing and we made it until the last match.”
The three-day attendance total for the return of Davis Cup to Ottawa for the first time in 23 years was 21,482, making this the highest-attended Davis Cup tie ever hosted by Canada. The previous record was 17,805 from Canada’s World Group first-round tie versus Spain in 2013.
Great Britain, the No. 2-ranked team in the world, now moves on to face France in the quarter-finals. Canada, ranked No. 12, will compete in the World Group play-offs slated for September 15-17, 2017 in order to try and maintain their position in the upper echelon of Davis Cup play. Canada, who will find out its opponent following the April Davis Cup ties, has been a member of the elite 16-team World Group for six straight years.
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