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“It was time for Canada” — Davis Cup team tennis trophy finally in Canadian hands

Robert Bettauer was Tennis Canada’s director of tennis development some three decades ago when the federation created a vision statement with some lofty goals.

Robert Bettauer was Tennis Canada’s director of tennis development some three decades ago when the federation created a vision statement with some lofty goals.

One of the top priorities was to one day win a Davis Cup title. On Sunday, Canada finally did it with a historic victory over Australia in Malaga, Spain.

“I just sent (former coaching director) Pierre Lamarche a text and said, ‘Mission accomplished,’” Bettauer said.

A sky-high goal for a program that wasn’t a tennis power at the time, Canada has slowly but surely become a player on the sport’s international scene.

Investments in national training centres, coaching and support staff have paid off and Canadian players have made significant inroads in the men’s and women’s game.

Back in the day, lower-level interim goals were set and eventually met, said Bettauer, a longtime tennis broadcaster and CEO of the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence.

Daniel Nestor became a force on the doubles scene. Eugenie Bouchard and Milos Raonic later took things to a higher level in singles with deep Grand Slam runs in the mid-2010s.

Bianca Andreescu delivered a breakthrough with a US Open singles title in 2019 and Leylah Fernandez reached the 2021 final in New York.

In men’s singles, Canada has two top-20 players in Denis Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime.

Joined by experienced veteran Vasek Pospisil in a deep Davis Cup lineup, Canada delivered wins over Germany and Italy to set up the final showdown with Australia.

“There’s no doubt they showed up in Spain this year ready to win it,” said Tennis Canada president Michael Downey.

Alexis Galarneau and Gabriel Diallo rounded out the Canadian roster. Captain Frank Dancevic pulled the strings and was a motivational force.

Shapovalov lost just six games in his opening singles victory Sunday over Thanasi Kokkinakis and Auger-Aliassime clinched it with a straight-sets win over Alex de Minaur.

“This is a massive milestone and achievement for Canadian tennis,” Bettauer told The Canadian Press. “I’m going to have to digest it for a while.

“But you can tell I’m experiencing a very happy glow as many, many people are across the country.”

Canada made its Davis Cup debut in 1913 but had never previously won the trophy. Canada came close in 2019 but lost the final to Spain.

“It was time for Canada,” Downey said. “It was time for these young men to break through.”

Bettauer, who represented Canada as a Davis Cup player and coach, recalled that initial vision statement some 30 years ago also included goals of Olympic gold and a title at the Fed Cup — the women’s international team event now called the Billie Jean King Cup.

Nestor and Sebastien Lareau won men’s doubles gold at the 2000 Summer Games in Sydney.

Canada has yet to win a title at the Billie Jean King Cup but should contend in the coming years with Andreescu, Fernandez and doubles ace Gaby Dabrowski leading a solid national side.

Downey said plans will soon be made to celebrate the Davis Cup title. A countrywide trophy tour with stops at tennis clubs and schools is a possibility, he said.

“When kids see the trophy and they know that Felix and Denis and Vasek and others delivered, it’s going to inspire them,” Downey said.

Canada posted a 2-1 record in last September’s qualification round in Valencia. Canada beat South Korea and Spain before sealing a berth in last week’s playoffs when Auger-Aliassime earned a singles win in a 2-1 loss to Serbia.