Alexis Galarneau victory vaults defending champion Canada into Davis Cup final 8

Defending champion Canada secured a spot in the Davis Cup final eight with Alexis Galarneau’s straight-sets singles win over Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo on Saturday in Bologna, Italy.

After sweeping host Italy and Sweden to open the 16-country group stage of finals, Canada needed to win one of three matches against Chile on Saturday to move to the Nov. 21-26 final eight in Malaga, Spain.

With a world singles ranking of 200, the 24-year-old Galarneau from Laval, Que., got the job done early in Canada’s first singles match on Unipol Arena’s hard court.

His 6-3, 7-6(5) victory over Tabilo ensured Canada will advance in what’s been dubbed the World Cup of men’s team tennis.

“It got tricky. I know Alejandro from the juniors,” Galarneau said. “He grew up in Canada so I knew what to expect. I know he’s a great fighter.

“I was able to use some of the energy from the crowd, from my teammates, to really give a good serve.”

WATCH | Galarneau makes quick work of Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo:

Canada through to Davis Cup Final 8 with Galarneau’s victory

The Laval native defeated Chile’s Alejandro Tabilo 6-3, 7-6(5) in the opening rubber, putting Canada ahead in the series and clinching the country a spot in the next stage of the Davis Cup.

Canada defeated Australia in 2022 to win the Davis Cup for the first time.

The two countries were given byes to this year’s group stage final, in which the top two countries in each pool of four move on to Malaga.

Canadian trio went 6-0 earlier in week

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 Galarneau went a combined 6-0 in singles and doubles matches against Italy and Sweden on Wednesday and Thursday respectively.

The team spirit is awesome. We’re clicking pretty well and, knock on wood, we keep that streak going.— Canadian player Alexis Galarneau

The 33-year-old Pospisil, who took more than two months off from tennis in the spring to heal injuries, won his singles match over Sweden’s Leo Borg and teamed with Galarneau for a pair of doubles victories over the Swedes and Italians

Diallo, 21, didn’t face a break point in his first two singles victories in Bologna, which were the first of his Davis Cup career.

Diallo fell 6-4, 6-4 to world No. 22 Nicolas Jarry in Saturday’s second singles match.

But by then, Galarneau had pushed Canada’s unbeaten run in Bologna to seven straight.

“We’re definitely doing something right,” Galarneau said. “The team spirit is awesome. We’re just clicking pretty well and, knock on wood, we keep that streak going.

“It’s another chance at hopefully winning the title, but also it just shows that last year was not a fluke, but we’re to be taken seriously. We’re number one ranked in the world and we wanted to back ourselves and that’s what we’re doing at the moment.”

WATCH | Full coverage of Galarneau/Tabilo match from Bologna, Italy:

Davis Cup Group Stage: Canada vs. Chile – Alexis Galarneau vs. Alejandro Tabilo

Watch Davis Cup group stage tennis action between Canada and Chile from Bologna, Italy.

Finland shocks U.S.

Underdog Finland stunned 32-time champions the United States in Split, Croatia to seal their place in the Davis Cup quarter-finals for the first time.

Otto Virtanen got Finland off to a solid start by outlasting Mackenzie McDonald 7-6(5) 1-6 7-6(7) before Emil Ruusuvuori sent Finland into the last eight from Group D with a hard-fought 7-6(1) 6-4 win over Tommy Paul in Split.

“It means a lot for the whole country and for tennis in Finland. It’s a huge thing and once again we proved how strong this team is,” Ruusuvuori said. “We’re going to Malaga.

“I skipped the U.S. Open as I was sick and didn’t come here in really good shape. I struggled today physically and it was a bit tough in the beginning. But you just have to keep fighting. I was able to find a way in two long sets.”

In Group C, already qualified Serbia found itself down 2-0 against the Czechs after world No. 1 Novak Djokovic had opted to skip the singles matches having guided them to victory over Spain a day earlier.

Dusan Lajovic crashed to a 6-3 6-2 defeat by Jakub Mensik to leave Serbia in a spot of bother in Valencia.

Laslo Djere, who has been in good form during the Finals group stage, overcame a back problem and dug deep to save four matchpoints in his clash with Jiri Lehecka but lost 7-6(7) 7-5 as the Czechs prevailed.

Australia, last year’s runner-up, also advanced with a 3-0 win over Switzerland in Group B in Manchester, England.

Thanasi Kokkinakis beat Dominic Stricker 6-3 7-5 and Alex de Minaur downed Marc-Andrea Huesler 6-4 6-3 before the pair of Max Purcell and Matthew Ebden added some gloss to the victory with a dominant display in the doubles rubber.

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