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Defending champion Canada earns berth in Davis Cup final eight

Canada's Alexis Galarneau Canada's Alexis Galarneau - The Canadian Press

BOLOGNA, Italy — Defending champion Canada is into the Davis Cup quarterfinals after a dominant performance in the group stage of finals.

The Canadians downed Chile 2-1 on Saturday after sweeping the host Italians and Sweden in Bologna.

Canada moved closer to defending its first title in what's been dubbed the World Cup of men's team tennis by advancing to November's final eight in Malaga, Spain.

"Everything just happened the right way for us this week," Canadian captain Frank Dancevic said Saturday. "The guys kept a good rhythm, good motivation with each other. It was good energy from day to day."

Canada needed to win just one of three matches Saturday against Chile. Alexis Galarneau of Laval, Que., got the job done early in Canada's first singles bout on the hard court at Unipol Arena.

The 24-year-old extended his country's win streak in Bologna to seven in a row with a straight sets 6-3, 7-6(5) victory over Chile's Alejandro Tabilo, who was born in Toronto.

"It got tricky. I know Alejandro from the juniors," Galarneau said. "He grew up in Canada so I knew what to expect. I know he's a great fighter.

"I was able to use some of the energy from the crowd, from my teammates, to really give a good serve."

Montreal's Gabriel Diallo dropped Saturday's second singles match 6-4, 6-4 to world No. 22 Nicolas Jarry.

Galarneau and Vasek Pospisil of Vernon, B.C., capped the day with a 6-3, 7-6(6) doubles victory over Tabilo and Tomas Barrios Vera.

Canada won eight of nine to top Group A at 3-0 ahead of Italy (1-1), Chile (1-2) and Sweden (0-2). Sweden and Italy meet Sunday.

The group stage finals feature 16 countries with the top two in each of the four pools qualifying for Malaga.

Canada defeated Australia in 2022 to win the Davis Cup for the first time. The two countries were rewarded with byes to this year's group stage final.

Minus Montreal's Felix Auger-Aliassime ranked No. 14 in the world in men's singles, and with Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., on the bench in Bologna after a knee injury forced him out of the U.S. Open, Canada's fortunes fell to seasoned veteran Pospisil and the more inexperienced Diallo and Galarneau.

The Canadian trio came out of the gates hard with a 6-0 record facing Italy and Sweden on back-to-back days before a break Friday.

"Versus Italy, unexpected to go 3-0, but we tried to use that momentum going into the next day," Dancevic said.

"The two days back-to-back were difficult for us for sure. Lots of matches, lots of recovery for everybody. For the players, emotionally very draining the first day to come back the second day, to bring that performance against Sweden was very difficult for us."

The 33-year-old Pospisil, who took more than two months off from tennis in the spring to heal injuries, won his singles match over Sweden's Leo Borg and teamed with Galarneau for a trio of doubles victories.

Diallo, 21, didn't face a break point in his first two singles victories, which were also the first of his Davis Cup career. Galarneau went 5-0 in singles and doubles.

"We're definitely doing something right," Galarneau said. "The team spirit is awesome. We're just clicking pretty well and, knock on wood, we keep that streak going.

"It's another chance at hopefully winning the title, but also it just shows that last year was not a fluke, that we're to be taken seriously. We're number one ranked in the world and we wanted to back ourselves and that's what we're doing at the moment."

The first Davis Cup was held in 1900 and 153 countries entered this year. The last country to win two straight Davis Cup crowns was the Czech Republic in 2012 and 2013.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 16, 2023.