Photo: Martin Sidorjak
In their second and final tie of the 2021 Davis Cup Finals by Rakuten Group B round robin stage, Team Canada presented by Sobeys went up against world no 12 Kazakhstan on Sunday. Following a 3-0 loss to Sweden on Thursday, Canada needed to win all of its matches today to have a chance to advance to the quarter-finals.
Unfortunately, their hopes were dashed in the first match when Brayden Schnur (no. 234) lost 6-3, 6-7(5), 7-5 to veteran Mikhail Kukushkin (no. 193). The Kazakh, who now has a record of 27 wins and 15 losses in Davis Cup matches, earned a valuable point for his country in the race to qualify for the final eight.
The first set was decided in the fourth game when the Kazakh broke serve and then quickly took a 4-1 lead en route to a 6-3 win. Aggressive on court, Kukushkin showed a high level of control in the beginning of the match, committing only six unforced errors compared to Schnur’s fourteen. Schnur struggled to impose his rhythm throughout the match, winning only 53% of his first serves.
The Ontario native recovered nicely in the second set, improving his first serve success rate (66%) and dominating the winners category (14 vs. 8). It wasn’t until the 11th game, the longest of the match, that Kukushkin finally broke serve to make it 6-5 and give himself the chance to serve for the match.
But the Canadian had not said his last word. Showing tremendous resilience, he held off three match points to force a tiebreak. With that success, Schnur kept the momentum going to win the first set for Canada in Madrid 7-6(5) and keep the match alive.
Two consecutive breaks were recorded as soon as the hostilities resumed in the final set. The Canadian and the Kazakh then fought a fierce battle until the end, leaving no chance for either to take control of the match. However, after 2 hours and 53 minutes of play, it was Kukushkin who was able to pull out the victory by breaking Schnur in the very last game of the match.
Pospisil loses in two sets versus Bublik
In the second match, British Columbia’s Vasek Pospisil (no. 133) was defeated by world no. 36, Alexander Bublik, in two sets of 6-2, 7-6(6). Team Canada presented by Sobeys is now officially eliminated from the Davis Cup Finals in as many ties. Kazakhstan, on the other hand, finished first in Group B with a 2-1 win over Sweden yesterday and will advance directly to the quarter-finals where they will face one of the two teams that qualify as the best second-place finishers.
Bublik, 24, quickly took control of the match, winning the first set 6-2 in 27 minutes on the strength of winning four consecutive games. He was particularly prolific on serve, hitting five aces and winning 89% of his first serve points.
Like his compatriot Schnur, Pospisil seemed to shift into second gear at the start of the second set. Saving four break points in the first game and two more in the 11th game, he played with much more intensity and gave Bublik no chance to break. As in the previous contest, a tiebreaker was needed to decide the outcome of the set. Unfortunately, even though Pospisil held two set points and a 6-4 lead, Bublik relied on his power (14 aces and 7 winners in the second set) to close the gap and seal the match 6-2, 7-6(6).
Polansky and Schnur fall in doubles
In Team Canada presented by Sobeys’ final match at the 2021 Davis Cup Finals, Peter Polansky and Brayden Schnur fell 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-1 to the Kazakh duo of Andrey Golubev and Aleksandr Nedovyesov (ranked 28th and 72nd in doubles respectively).
Even though Canada had already been eliminated from the competition following two singles losses earlier, Polansky and Schnur battled well despite the circumstances. In the first set, they successfully fought off five break points to keep the score at 4-4. However, despite the efforts of the Canadians, the Kazakhs continued to apply a lot of pressure and were finally able to convert a sixth break point to take the set at 6-4.
The battle remained tight in the second half of the match, with both sides capitalizing on all of their service games before exchanging breaks in games 7 and 8. As was the case in the day’s earlier matches, a tiebreak was once again required to break the tie and this time it was Canada who took advantage after converting second set point to win 7-6(6).
The Canadian comeback came to an abrupt halt in the final frame as Golubev and Nedovyesov quickly built a 4-0 lead. The Kazakhs sealed the outcome of the match a few minutes later at 6-1, giving their country a convincing 3-0 victory.
Now out of the Davis Cup Finals, Canada will have to wait until the end of the competition to know its final ranking among the best countries. Over the next few days, Team Canada will also learn the identity of its next opponents for the 2022 qualifiers.