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Canada completes its successful Davis Cup return in Montreal

Canada completes its successful Davis Cup return in Montreal

Five and a half years is a long time to wait for anything, especially something you enjoy.

Now professional athletes will tell you that one of the best feelings in sports is playing in front of your home fans, having them cheer you on and give you their support.

For Team Canada presented by Sobeys, they've had to wait a long time to get that experience again. It's been so long since the Canadiens played a Davis Cup match in front of their home crowd that three members of the Canadian team last week in Montreal had never experienced it before.

In fact, none of Gabriel Diallo, Alexis Gallarneau and Liam Draxel had yet turned professional the last time the men's team played at home.

While Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil are back, the duo are at very different stages of their careers than they were in 2018, when Canada won its playoff game against the Netherlands in Toronto.

Raonic was still in the top 20 at the time, but is now recovering from injury, having missed the Tour for almost two years. He wasn't physically ready to play this weekend.

Pospisil solidified in the Top 100 list in 2018, while today he clings to the Top 500 list.

Read also: Diallo seals Canada's victory over Korea

In short, the next version of Canada's home team after 2018 looked incredibly different, with more than half the team under 25 and fewer Davis Cup ties combined than Raunjic alone (and Pospisil having more than the other four). sum).

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Of course, perhaps the most dramatic difference between the Canadian team then and now is the prestige and expectations.

Photo: Pascal Rathé

Back in 2018, Canada was viewed as, at best, a dark horse in Davis Cup competition. They were certainly eyeing the title, and were only five years away from reaching the semi-finals in 2013, but lifting the trophy still seemed a long way off.

As it turned out, it had been exactly four years.

Read also: Diallo and Pospisil put Canada in control of Korea

It's more than just the faces that have changed since the 2018 draw in Toronto. After winning the Davis Cup in 2022 and currently sitting in second place, expectations are now sky-high every time the Canadian team competes. They believe they can do it, they know they can do it, and they expect to compete for the title every year.

Imagine saying that to audiences in attendance in 2018.

Helm Diallo's debut

If you had told the fans on the weekend in Toronto in September 2018 that the next time the team played at home, Gabriel Diallo would be playing hero, those fans would have rightly said: “Who?”

In September 2018, Diallo was still in high school. He was a year away from taking the next step in his career by starting at the University of Kentucky in the NCAA.

Read also: Regardless of age, the Davis Cup is special for Diallo and Pospisil

Montreal was competing in its fifth Davis Cup encounter with Canada this weekend, but its first in its home country. Not only that, but it was in his own neighborhood in his hometown.

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“It was very special,” Diallo said after his win on Saturday. “It was home. The fact that Frank gave me the opportunity to play in front of my whole family, my friends, and everyone from my neighborhood, I'm so grateful. These are moments I'll remember for the rest of my life.”

A lot has been asked about Diallo in his first home match. The 22-year-old has filled in as Canada's No. 1 in the absence of Felix Auger-Aliassime and Denis Shapovalov, and while the excitement is certainly there, it's a lot of pressure on the young player who has to lead his country into action. In front of your home audiences for the first time.

Read Also: Dancevic – It's amazing to be home to the Davis Cup

“We have a lot of depth in our team, especially with the performances you've seen the last couple of days from Gabriel and Alexis,” captain Frank Dancevic said of his youngsters. “They are young. We have experienced guys like Milos and Vasek. But it is true that we have young players who play well and behave well on the field. We have a lot of abilities in our team.”

It was an impressive debut for Diallo at home in this competition. He was up to the challenge, winning both his singles matches including a three-set thriller to seal victory for his country.

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“There were a lot of firsts for me this weekend,” the local hero said. “My first time playing the Davis Cup on home soil, especially in… [IGA Stadium]It was special for me. I tried to be open and not mentally set boundaries for myself. I was ready for everything. I was too focused on my tactics. “It helped me not focus so much on my feelings.”

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Having had a taste of playing at home, these young Canadians would certainly like to do it again. However, winning a Davis Cup title means skipping the playoffs, so if you were given the option of not playing at home for another five years if it meant winning some titles, most fans and players would probably be OK with that trade-off. .

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