After 15 losses, Canada beats U.S. for first time at Davis Cup

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MADRID — Canada beat the United States in the Davis Cup for the first time on Tuesday, defeating the Americans 2-0 on the second day of the revamped team competition to end a run of 15 straight losses.

Vasek Pospisil edged Reilly Opelka 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7) and Denis Shapovalov defeated Taylor Fritz 7-6 (6), 6-3 to give the Canadians an insurmountable lead in Group F of the inaugural Davis Cup Finals.

It was Canada’s first win in 16 meetings with the United States in the 119-year-old competition, although the teams had not played since 1965. The Americans had lost only three matches in total against their neighbors in the previous 15 meetings.

“It’s extremely disappointing because I felt like I definitely could have won, and it would have been big for the team,” Fritz said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t come up with the right shots at the right times sometimes. Ultimately, that’s why I lost.”

The result leaves the United States needing to beat Italy on Wednesday to have a chance of advancing to the knockout stage. Italy lost to Canada 2-1 in the opening group tie on Monday.

“This is the toughest group, I think, so there is no easy match.” U.S. team captain Mardy Fish said. “But you never know. We are going to go out there tomorrow and try to win the first one and try to put ourselves in position to do that.”

In the new Davis Cup format, teams play only two singles and a doubles match in each tie, with the group winners advancing along with the two best second-place finishers in the six groups.

The doubles match was not played.

“They’ve got a great team,” Fish said. “They’re going to be around for a long time … I imagine that we’re going to have quite a few battles with them over the years.”

The U.S. has won 32 Davis Cup titles, but its last came in 2007. If it fails to win in Madrid, it will equal the team’s longest gap between titles.

Opelka and Fritz said they were not surprised by the small number of American fans cheering for the team in the Spanish capital. The Canadians largely outnumbered the Americans and were much louder throughout the matches.

“Being an American tennis player, you are kind of used to not getting the support,” the 22-year-old Opelka said.

Fritz said there are just “more dedicated tennis fans in Canada.”

“I’m not going to lie, I think the U.S. has so many other great sports, tennis isn’t really the focus,” he said. “The Canadian fans were strong and they flew out and they came out. I don’t think it has anything to do with the federations or anything.”

The new Davis Cup is being played in a World Cup-style format with all 18 teams playing in a single venue in the same week, instead of the head-to-head confrontations that used to take place at varied sites over four weekends throughout the year.

“I think the new format is great,” Opelka said. “I think it is easier to follow, it’s easier to understand what’s going on. The tournament starts, the tournament ends, you have a winner, you know when it’s over. It’s not dragging on throughout the whole year.”

The revamped tournament is the result of a 25-year partnership between the International Tennis Federation and Kosmos, a group co-founded by Barcelona soccer player Gerard Pique. The ITF said the change was made to make the competition more attractive and lucrative.

Gilbert Klier Junior hit with 12-month doping ban

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LONDON — Brazilian Gilbert Klier Junior, a bronze medalist at the 2018 Youth Olympics, has been banned for 12 months in a doping case, the International Tennis Integrity Agency said.

The ITIA said it had accepted that Klier Junior had not deliberately doped and that the banned substance SARM S-22 had entered his body through a contaminated supplement. However, it said he bore some responsibility, especially “following other high profile cases involving Brazilian tennis players and other sports people.”

The 22-year-old Klier Junior has a career high ranking of 354th and won bronze in the singles event at the 2018 Youth Olympics.

The ban was backdated to start from last June, when Klier Junior was first suspended from competition while the case was resolved.

Croatia advances in Davis Cup as Coric beats Thiem

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Borna Coric beat 2020 U.S. Open champion Dominic Thiem 7-6 (3), 6-2 to send Croatia into the group stage of the Davis Cup.

Coric helped the Croatians win their second Davis Cup title in 2018, but he was sidelined when they lost in the 2021 final while missing a year of action with a right shoulder injury.

He returned to the tour last March, winning a Masters 1000 title in August in Cincinnati, Ohio, and rejoined the Croatians when they reached the Davis Cup semifinals last year.

His victory over Thiem, who has also dealt with injuries in recent years, gave Croatia a 3-1 victory in Rijeka. The Austrians had taken the tie against the No. 1 team in the Davis Cup rankings to a fourth match when Alexander Erler and Lucas Miedler beat Ivan Dodig and Nikola Mektic 6-3, 7-6 (11) in the doubles match earlier Sunday.

Chile, Finland, the Netherlands, South Korea and the Czech Republic also completed victories Sunday to secure their places in the next round, which will be played in September.

On Saturday, the U.S. completed a sweep of Uzbekistan, while Serbia, France, Britain, Switzerland and Sweden also finished off victories. Those 12 countries will play in the group stage, along with reigning champion Canada, 2022 runner-up Australia and wild-card recipients Italy and Spain.

Eight teams will then advance to the closing matches of the Davis Cup Finals scheduled for Nov. 21-26 in Malaga, Spain.

In Sunday’s other matches:

– Finland 3, Argentina 1: On indoor hard courts in Espoo, Finland, Harri Heliovaara and Emil Ruusuvuori edged Maximo Gonzalez and Andres Molteni 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-4, before Ruusuvuori secured the winning point and a personal 3-0 weekend by beating Facundo Bagnis 7-5, 6-1.

– Netherlands 4, Slovakia 0: On indoor hard courts in Groningen, Matwe Middelkoop and Wesley Koolhof sent the hosts through with a 6-3, 6-3 victory over Alex Molcan and Lukas Klein. Middelkoop then beat Jozef Kovalik 6-4, 6-4.

– South Korea 3, Belgium 2: On indoor hard courts in Seoul, the hosts rallied from a 2-0 deficit after the first day. Min-Kyu Song and Ji Sung Nam kept them alive with a 7-6 (3), 7-6 (5) victory over Joran Vliegen and Sander Gille. Soonwoo Kwon then beat David Goffin 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 before Seong Chan Hong completed the comeback with a 6-3, 7-6 (4) victory over Zizou Bergs.

– Czech Republic 3, Portugal 1: On an indoor clay court in Maia, Portugal, Jiri Lehecka wrapped up the victory by beating Joao Sousa 6-4, 6-1.

– Chile 3, Kazakhstan 1: On an outdoor clay court in La Serena, Chile, Cristian Garin beat Alexander Bublik 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 after the hosts had taken the lead with a victory by the doubles team of Alejandro Tabilo and Tomas Barrios Vera.