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Sunday, June 23, 2024

Finland overwhelms defending champion Canada to advance to Davis Cup semi-finals in Spain

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MALAGA, Spain (AP) — Feeling at home, Finland defeated defending champion Canada on Tuesday to advance to the Davis Cup semifinals for the first time.

Otto Virtanen and Hari Heliovára defeated Alexis Garanau and Vasek Pospisil 7-5, 6-3 in the doubles final, ranking 14th in the first quarter-final match in southern Spain. Finland defeated number one ranked Canada.

After Milos Raonic gave Canada the lead with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Patric Kaukobarta, Virtanen defeated Gabriel Diallo 6-4, 7-5 in the second singles match to defeat Finland was kept alive.

Approximately 3 million Finnish fans cheered on Finland at the Martin Carpena Arena in Malaga.

“We are not in Finland, but we feel like we are in Finland,” Virtanen said. “I love the pressure of playing in front of the fans. Having the support makes me play better every time. Playing for your country means everything. Today was great.”

Fuengirola, a town about 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of Malaga and home to the second-largest Finnish community outside of Finland, was visited by 14 buses carrying fans. They joined more than 1,000 fans from Finland, according to local organizers.

Finland is the first Scandinavian country to reach the Davis Cup semi-finals since Sweden in 2007.

Finland’s best performance before this year was three appearances in the World Cup playoffs, the last in 2002. Canada won its first Davis Cup title last year, defeating Australia in the final in Malaga.

“This is why we play tennis,” Heliovaara said. “Today was definitely one of the best days of my career in terms of emotions. We knew in advance that a large group of Finnish supporters would be there, but it was great to actually be on the court. You don’t know how amazing it is until you experience it. That feeling is something I will cherish forever.”

Both countries’ No. 1 players were absent due to injury, with Canada’s Felix Auger-Aliassime suffering a lower-body problem and Finland’s Emil Rousbry with a shoulder ailment.

Former world No. 3 Raonic started with four aces and did not allow Caucobalta to play in the first match. Raonic, 32, who hadn’t played for Canada in five years, lost just one point on serve in the first set and three points overall in the match.

Finland’s 22-year-old Virtanen broke the serve once in each set against Diallo to equalize.

In doubles, Finland broke serve in the second set to take a 5-3 lead and shut out the match to draw. Heliovaara said she and Virtanen never played doubles together in a practice match.

“Just 15 minutes before the game, we thoroughly reviewed the signs and tactics,” Heliovaara said. “But sometimes that’s what works best. Let it happen. No expectations. Do your best. Be a good teammate. We did just that.”

Australia will play the Czech Republic in Wednesday’s other quarter-final, with the winner facing Finland. Italy will play against the Netherlands on Thursday, while Great Britain will face Novak Djokovic’s Serbia.

The semi-finals will be held on Friday and Saturday, with the winner being crowned on Sunday.

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AP Tennis: https://apnews.com/hub/tennis





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