ATP Cup 2020: U.S. make terrible start as Shapovalov inspires Canada

John Isner (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)
John Isner (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images) /

Denis Shapovalov gave Canada a dream start to the ATP Cup against Greece, but the U.S. fell to a disappointing defeat when they opened their campaign.

The ATP Cup is under way and the United States did not make the start they were hoping to as they fell to a shock 2-1 loss to Norway in their first Group D match.

Canada had a much better opener, beating Greece 3-0 in a tie that saw Denis Shapovalov earn a statement win over the highly fancied Stefanos Tsitsipas to start 2020 with a bang.

Competing in Group D against Russia and Italy, both the U.S. and Norway knew a good start was imperative if they were to stand a chance of either winning the group or building a record strong enough to be one of the two best runners-up teams from the six groups who reach the quarterfinals.

It looked to be going well for the U.S. when Taylor Fritz won the opening singles rubber easily, seeing off Viktor Durasovic 6-2 6-2 in only an hour.

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But a disappointing loss was to come, with Norway recovering from the brink of losing themselves to stun the U.S.

John Isner had two match points in the second singles rubber against Casper Ruud but the Norway player recovered to win an epic match 6-7 (3-7) 7-6 (12-10) 7-5 in two hours and 43 minutes.

That sent the tie down to a doubles decider and Norway won another thrilling encounter there.

Ruud, having just beaten Isner, partnered Durasovic and they won a decisive match tie-break 10-5 after splitting the first two sets against Austin Krajicek and Rajeev Ram.

“I think I made a great effort today,” Ruud said in his post-match interview.

“We were one point away from losing the tie, and even if I’d lost [against Isner] 7-6, 7-6, I wouldn’t have thought I’d done a lot wrong.

“We tried to play aggressively in the doubles, against two good doubles players, but we’re good singles players and tried to win our way, not coming to the net a lot. We’re very happy to beat Team United States.”

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Isner, meanwhile, accepted blame for the defeat, saying Ruud was the deserving winner.

The 34-year-old, who is looking to bounce back to form in 2020, went on to explain what went wrong.

Isner said: “He was making a lot of first serves and I was really struggling. I have another match, but I’m a notoriously slow starter.

“I was a little bit tense and tight, I wasn’t free out there. I wasn’t clicking. I’d like to have that second match point back.”

With the United States struggling again after their Davis Cup group-stage exit, Canada, finalists in that event, are thriving once more.

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Shapovalov has been tipped for a breakout year by stars like Rafael Nadal and he superbly beat Tsitsipas, another player who is bidding to break up the Big Three this season after his ATP Finals win.

A close match ended 7-6 (8-6) 7-6 (7-4) in favour of Shapovalov after Felix Auger-Aliassime had comfortably got the better of Michail Pervolarakis in the opener.

“It’s a huge win for me,” said a delighted Shapovalov. “Obviously, he had an unbelievable end to the season and he’s definitely one of the top players in the world right now.

“He’s got a great game. So to beat a guy like this in the first match of the year, it’s really special for me.”

Even though the tie was won, Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime teamed up for the doubles and won that too to give the Canadians a clean sweep and get some valuable match practise under their belts.

Belgium beat Moldova 3-0 in the other tie to take place in the early session of Day 1.

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There are a further three ties in the night session, though it is not until Day 2 when Nadal and Novak Djokovic begin their ATP Cup campaigns for Spain and Serbia respectively.