Sport Young guns pilot Canada to ATP Cup glory
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Young guns pilot Canada to ATP Cup glory

Team Canada celebrates its ATP Cup win over Team Spain on Sunday night. Photo: AAP
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Young guns Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov have piloted Canada to an emotional victory over Spain in the ATP Cup final in Sydney.

The Canadian team celebrated wildly after Auger-Aliassime clinched the tie with a 7-5 6-3 win over Roberto Bautista Agut on Sunday night.

Shapovalov had earlier put his country one win away from the trophy with a 6-4 6-3 defeat of Spanish mainstay Pablo Carreno Busta in the crucial first rubber at Ken Rosewall Arena.

With losses in all eight of his previous ATP finals, victory for 21-year-old Auger-Aliassime and Canada was never assured.

But in the world No.11 stepped up and delivered in his dual role as lead player and team captain.

“The emotions are unbelievable,” Auger-Aliassime said.

“There’s no better feeling than winning. We left everything out there.

“We came back from far in this competition. We lost our first four matches but we never stopped believing.

“That’s very important. We trust each other to the highest level, Denis and I.”

Separated by a year in age, Auger-Aliassime and the 14th-ranked Shapovalov, 22, helped Canada emerge from a stacked group just to make the final four.

The Canadians rebounded from a 3-0 drubbing at the hands of the USA in their opening tie, then Shapovalov’s loss to Dan Evans, to stay in title reckoning with a 2-1 comeback win over Great Britain.

Auger-Aliassime’s three-set win over world No.3 Alexander Zverev sparked Canada’s semi-final-sealing success over Germany before Shapovalov was the two-rubber hero in a tense 2-1 triumph over defending champions Russia.

Sky high on confidence, now Auger-Aliassime and Shapovalov loom as serious Australian Open title threats, especially if world No.1 and defending champion Novak Djokovic is deported to Serbia for not having the necessary visa requirements.

The emerging stars were grand slam semi-finalists last year – Auger-Aliassime at the US Open and Shapovalov at Wimbledon – having both previously made major quarter-finals.

The next rise in their upward trajectories could well come at Melbourne Park when the Open starts on January 17 with or without Djokovic, whose legal battle resumes in the Federal Court on Monday.

-AAP