BOLOGNA, Italy — After a strong start, Canada needs a strong finish Saturday in its Davis Cup group stage final.
The defending champions of what's been dubbed the World Cup of men's team tennis wrap up group play against Chile after opening with sweeps of Sweden and host Italy in Bologna.
Canada (2-0) topped Group A of the 16-country group finals ahead of Italy and Chile (1-1) and Sweden (0-2).
The top two countries in each of the four groups advance to November's round of eight in Malaga, Spain.
After winning six straight matches over the first two days in Bologna, Canada's men had Friday off while Italy beat Chile in two singles and a doubles match.
Just a single Chilean win Friday would have assured Canada of moving on to Malaga, but the Italians were tenacious in front of home-country fans on the Unipol Arena hard court.
Italy lost the first set of every match Friday, but recovered to win.
Lorenzo Muzetti and Lorenzo Sonego held off Chile's Tomas Barrios Vera and Alejandro Tabilo 6-7 (3), 6-3, 7-6 (2) in a doubles match to secure the sweep.
Italy and Sweden square off Sunday to conclude Group A competition.
Canada defeated Australia in last year's final to win the Davis Cup for the first time. Both countries earned byes to the group stage of this year's finals.
Minus Montreal's Felix Auger-Aliassime ranked No. 14 in the world in men's singles, and with Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., on the bench in Bologna after a knee injury forced him out of the U.S. Open, Canada's fortunes fell to a seasoned veteran and a pair of relative youngsters.
Vasek Pospisil of Vernon, B.C., Montreal's Gabriel Diallo and Alexis Galarneau of Laval, Que., went a combined 6-0 in singles and doubles matches against Italy and Sweden on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.
The 33-year-old Pospisil served 25 aces in a three-set singles win over Sweden's Leo Borg, the son of tennis great Bjorn Borg, and also teamed with Galarneau to win doubles on back-to-back days.
Diallo, 21, has yet to face a break point in a pair of singles victories, which were the first of his Davis Cup career.
The 24-year-old Galarneau, with a world singles ranking of 200, kicked off the competition for Canada with a win over No. 38 Sonego of Italy before collecting a pair of doubles victories with Pospisil.
The first Davis Cup was held in 1900. There were 153 countries that entered in 2023.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 15, 2023.
The Canadian Press