MADRID (AP) — Canada became the first team to reach the semifinals of the new Davis Cup Finals, winning the decisive doubles match to beat Australia 2-1 on Thursday.
Vasek Pospisil and Denis Shapovalov defeated John Peters and Jordan Thompson 6-4, 6-4 to give Canada its first Davis Cup win against the Aussies.
Nick Kyrgios surprisingly did not play for Australia, being left with a cheering role because of a collarbone injury picked up on Wednesday.
“We didn’t really have a choice,” Australia team captain Lleyton Hewitt said. “He couldn’t play. That’s just the way the cards fell.”
The 30th-ranked Kyrgios, Australia’s No. 2 player, had won both of his matches in the group stage without dropping a set. He was substituted by the 48th-ranked John Millman, who hadn’t played previously in Madrid.
“I was expecting to play Nick. We were surprised,” Pospisil said. “Then I just digested it for five minutes and went back to getting my rackets ready. And obviously start to change my mentality in terms of how I was going to play the match a little bit because they’re two very different players, polar opposites.”
Millman lost Thursday’s first singles to Pospisil 7-6 (7), 6-4, but Australian No. 1 Alex de Miñaur evened the series with a 3-6, 6-3, 7-5 win over Shapovalov in a battle of 20-year-olds at the “Caja Mágica” center court.
Shapovalov and De Miñaur had previously met in the 2015 junior Davis Cup final and in the 2016 Wimbledon boys final.
Canada had not beaten Australia in nine previous Davis Cup meetings, with only one match victory.
Earlier this week, the Canadians ended a losing streak of 15 meetings against the United States, a team it had never beaten in the Davis Cup.
“This is unbelievable,” Canada team captain Frank Dancevic said. “We came here not knowing what to expect. We have a great team and we had the potential to get this far, but the guys put their hearts on the line this week. They’re playing unbelievable tennis, and to clinch the doubles this way, to play so clutch, they wanted it so bad. I’m so proud of them, it’s amazing.”
By reaching the semifinals, Canada is guaranteed a place in the 2020 Davis Cup Finals.
Canada will next face either Serbia or Russia, who play their quarterfinal on Friday morning.
Novak Djokovic earlier helped Serbia eliminate top-ranked France, while Britain advanced despite resting Andy Murray to set up a meeting with Germany. Argentina went through as a second-place finisher to take on Rafael Nadal and host Spain.
Djokovic defeated Benoit Paire 6-3, 6-3 to seal Serbia’s victory after Filip Krajinovic had beaten Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 7-5, 7-6 (5) in the first singles. France picked up its lone point with duo Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut defeating Viktor Troicki and the retiring Janko Tipsarevic 6-4, 6-4.
Djokovic had a break in the first set and two in the second to clinch his 14th straight Davis Cup singles victory.
“I made some crucial breaks at the right time in both sets,” Djokovic said. “It’s tough to play Benoit, he is a very talented guy, very unpredictable.”
Serbia secured first place in Group A by winning every tie without dropping a set in the singles matches.
Group winners advanced to the knockout stage along with the two best second-place finishers among the six groups.
Argentina was one of those top second-place finishers, along with Russia. France, Belgium, Kazakhstan and the U.S. were eliminated as the other runners-up.
Four of the top six-ranked Davis Cup teams failed to advance — France, defending champion Croatia, Belgium and the U.S.
Britain got past Kazakhstan after Jamie Murray and Neal Skupski defeated Alexander Bublik and Mikhail Kukushkin 6-1, 6-4 in the deciding doubles match.
“It's been another good day for us,” Skupski said. “Very proud to get the win today with Jamie. I thought we fought hard. I think we’re playing well.”
The teams were tied 1-1 in Group E after Kyle Edmund beat Kukushkin 6-3, 6-3 and Bublik defeated Daniel Evans 5-7, 6-4, 6-1.
Britain decided to rest Andy Murray, who on Wednesday came from behind to win his match against Tallon Griekspoor in three sets.
Germany won Group C by defeating Chile 2-1 thanks to a doubles win by Kevin Krawietz and Andreas Mies over Marcelo Tomas Barrios and Alejandro Tabilo.
Phillip Kohlschreiber had given Germany the lead by defeating Nicolas Jarry 6-4, 6-3, but Cristian Garin evened the series with a 6-7 (3), 7-6 (7), 7-6 (8) victory over Jan-Lennard Struff.
“I think we’re really excited to be playing them in the quarterfinals,” Britain’s Jamie Murray said of the matchup against Germany. “I think it’s going to be a very evenly-matched tie and really excited to get the chance to go out there and compete again.”
The new Davis Cup Finals is being played in World Cup-style with all 18 teams playing in a single venue in the same week.
Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni