Barcelona, Spain –
— Carlos Alcaraz’s biggest fans had flocked to see the world’s new top player return home to Spain.
Instead, they watched Montreal’s Felix Auger-Aliassime defeat their new idol before staying on the hard court to secure a second doubles win and help Canada to a surprise 2 in Friday’s Davis Cup group stage: 1 win against Spain.
Alcaraz lost 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-2 to a superb Auger-Aliassime who endured the partisan crowds and tipped the game in Valencia in his own way after the 19-year-old Spaniard dug deep to save the to earn first place set tiebreaker.
As the pavilion roared for Alcaraz, Auger-Aliassime responded coolly, surgically placing shot after shot exactly where he wanted. He dominated on serve with 16 aces, eventually breaking Alcaraz late in the second set and twice in the third.
“He’s number 1 in the world and he has a lot of credit for that, but today I was a little better in the third set,” said Auger-Aliassime in 13th place. “I didn’t want to let my team down with my fighting spirit.”
The Spaniard was full of praise for Auger-Aliassime after his match.
“Felix is a beast. Physically and mentally, Felix is one of the best in the world,” Alcaraz said after his first match since winning the US Open last weekend to become the youngest man to rise to the top of the ATP rankings .
“I arrived in not very good physical condition,” he added. “It was a very tough day but I have to congratulate him because he played an incredible game.”
Roberto Bautista gave Spain the first point after clinching a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over Vasek Pospisil.
With no time to recover, Auger-Aliassime and Pospisil showed no signs of exhaustion as they defeated Marcel Granollers and Pedro Martinez 4-6 6-4 7-5 in the decider.
Next, Canada play Serbia on Saturday, while Spain take on South Korea on Sunday to determine which two advance to the quarter-finals in the southern Spanish city of Malaga in November.
Spain beat Serbia 3-0 on Wednesday while Alcaraz was resting after flying home from New York, where he won his first singles Grand Slam title on Sunday after a grueling run that included three straight wins contained five sentences.
Before the Davis Cup tie, Alcaraz was busy signing autographs and posing for photos after practice. He received the biggest applause when the Spanish team was unveiled and he was introduced as the ‘new world No. 1’.
After the game, he didn’t focus on the loss but on the joy of being back home.
“I wanted to return to Spain, I wanted to share this moment to be number 1 and become US Open champion with all my people,” said Alcaraz.
After Spanish fans had to stay up practically all night to watch his matches at the US Open due to the time difference, this was the first opportunity to see him play at home since May when he won the Madrid Open. Alcaraz defeated Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev in the capital in what many saw as passing the torch to his Spanish successor.
Red and yellow flags were draped over the pavilion’s railings, including one with the name of Alcaraz’s home region, Murcia, painted in large black letters. Valencia on the Mediterranean coast is about 2 1/2 hours north of Alcaraz’ home town of El Palmar with a population of 24,000.
Alcaraz had previously only met Auger-Aliassime once in the quarterfinals of the 2021 US Open when the Spaniard was forced to retire through injury.
While Alcaraz returned after a busy two weeks in the US, Auger-Aliassime played singles and doubles on Tuesday to help Canada beat South Korea in the Davis Cup opener.
Alcaraz failed to touch Auger-Aliassime’s serve, eliciting more cheers from the stands that included his parents. After hard-fought points, he slammed his fist at captain Sergi Bruguera and personal coach Juan Carlos Ferrero.
That was enough for Alcaraz to get through the first set tiebreak after Auger-Aliassime’s untimely errors.
But Auger-Aliassime never lost the initiative. Canada captain Frank Dancevic jumped up from his seat on the sidelines to cheer as Auger-Aliassime finally broke Alcaraz late in the second set. The Canadian poured it on.
Also on Friday, the Netherlands advanced after beating Andy Murray’s Great Britain 2-1 in Glasgow. The result also meant the United States advanced from Group D.
Germany and Australia rose from Group C after the Germans beat Belgium 2-1, while in Group A Italy defeated Argentina 2-1 in Bologna.