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Shapovalov joins pal Auger-Aliassime in Miami Open

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Denis Shapovalov has continued a marvellous March for Canadian teen tennis players.

The 19-year-old native of Richmond Hill, Ont., joined fellow Canadian Felix Auger-Aliassime, 18, in the men’s semifinals of the Miami Open with a 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-2 win over American Frances Tiafoe on Thursday night.

“It’s kind of crazy to share this with Felix,” Shapovalov said. “I was just thinking in the locker room how far back we go, and from the national groupings when we were eight and nine years old, so it’s so crazy to see how far we have come.

“And at such a young age, I feel like both of us have such of bright future ahead of us. It’s really great to see him doing well. Honestly, it’s not a shocker for me that he’s gone this far, that he’s doing so well.”

Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime are making headlines less than two weeks after 18-year-old BiancaAndreescu of Mississauga, Ont., captured the women’s title of the BNPParibas Open in Indian Wells, Calif.

Shapovalov, the 20th seed, will face No. 4 seed Roger Federer in the semifinals of the ATP Tour Masters 1000 event Friday night. Montreal’s Auger-Aliassime, a qualifier, meets No. 7 seed John Isner of the U.S on Friday afternoon.

WATCH | Shapovalov surges into Miami Open semifinal:

Denis Shapovalov came back from a 1-0 set deficit again to defeat Francis Tiafoe 6-7, 6-4, 6-2. 2:12

Federer, who beat No. 6 seed Kevin Anderson 6-4, 6-0 on Thursday, is 37 years old. That’s the combined age of the two Canadian teens in the men’s semifinals.

“It’s great for the game because they will carry the sport when we’re long gone and we’ll be sitting on the couch watching those guys slug it out,” Federer said about the young Canadians. “It’ll be a joy to watch because not only are they great, great players but they’re good people, too.”

It will be the first career meeting between Shapovalov and Federer as well as Auger-Aliassime and Isner.

Federer was Shapovalov’s favourite player growing up and the Canadian said it will be a “dream come true” facing the Swiss legend.

“I [will] try to put on some tennis sunglasses so I don’t see him [smiling], so I see blurry or something, or I see someone else on the other side,” Shapovalov joked.

“No, honestly, I’m going to try to go about it the same way. And I’m really happy with how the week’s gone so far, so I’m just going to go out there, enjoy myself, just have a good time on the court and give it my all. You know, that’s all I can ask at this point.”

Denis Shapovalov makes a return against Frances Tiafoe in the Canadian’s three-set win at the Miami Open on Thursday. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

If Shapovalov and Auger-Aliassime both win, it would set up the first ever ATP Masters 1000 final featuring two teenagers. It also would mark the second all-Canadian ATP final, five years after MilosRaonic beat VasekPospisil in the Citi Open final in Washington, D.C.

The Tiafoe-Shapovalov match started more than three hours late because of rain. When it finally did get going, fans weren’t disappointed as the hard-hitting players produced regular winners.

Shapovalov rallied from a set down with two breaks in the second set and another two in the third against the 28th-seededTiafoe.

With the score tied at 1-1 in the third set, Shapovalov took the lead for good when he converted on his fourth break-point opportunity of the game.

Shapovalov was better on first serve, winning 76 per cent of his points, as compared to 63 per cent for the 21-year-old Tiafoe. Shapovalov also had a 36-18 edge in winners.

As for Auger-Aliassime, it’s fair to say he is a surprise semifinalist.

Denis Shapovalov talks about making the semifinals of the Miami Open with fellow Canadian teen Felix Auger-Aliassime. 1:02

It’s fair — because he’s even surprising himself.

Auger-Aliassime will face 33-year-old big-server Isner, the defending champion. Auger-Aliassime is the youngest player left in a tournament where plenty of youngsters have made splashes, yet he says there’s no time right now to think about how rapidly his stock is rising.

“A lot of things are working, obviously,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I think I have been just improving in the last couple of weeks. But I don’t want to look back right now. I think I will do at the end of the tournament. Right now I’m looking forward to the next match and how far I can go in this tournament. Definitely I will take some time back home to reset and think about what happened.”

He had Thursday off, which probably saved him a bit of a frustrating day mentally. Play was to begin at 1 p.m. in a women’s semifinal match between 12th-seeded Ashleigh Barty and 21st-seeded Anett Kontaveit — they were delayed an hour at the start because of rain, then for another 2 1/2 hours after getting only two games in before the next wave of rain arrived.

Weather is supposed to be better Friday, when Auger-Aliassime will face off with Isner.

Denis Shapovalov discusses the development of Canada’s teenage tennis stars. 1:46
The Canadian teen swept Croatian Borna Coric 7-6, 6-2 in their quarter-final match at the Miami Open. 2:03

Auger-Aliassime wasn’t even in the top 100 of the world rankings two months ago, or in the top 50 when the Miami Open started. He’s now assured of climbing to at least 33rd when the rankings get updated Monday and becomes the first men’s player born in the 2000s to get past the No. 50 mark.

“Obviously it’s a privilege to be compared to all these great players,” Auger-Aliassime said. “I think it just shows that I’m doing good things, I’m on the right track.”

On the women’s side, Barty is finally through to her first Miami Open final.

The Australian endured three rain delays — one before the match, two more during play — to beat Kontaveit 6-3, 6-3 on Thursday night.

Barty, who will rise to a career-best No. 9 in the world rankings next week, will face either second-seeded Simona Halep or fifth-seeded Karolina Pliskova in Saturday’s final.

Halep and Pliskova were scheduled to play later Thursday night. Halep would return to No. 1 in the world with a win in that semifinal.

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Pospisil, Shapovalov engineer Canada historic win over U.S. at Davis Cup

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Canada is heading to the quarter-finals at the inaugural Davis Cup Finals after sweeping a pair of singles matches against the United States on Tuesday.

Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., clinched the victory in the best-of-three tie, beating Taylor Fritz 7-6 (6), 6-3.

Shapovalov, ranked a career-high 15th in the world, finished off No. 32 Fritz with an ace.

Earlier, Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil recorded his second major upset in as many days when the world No. 150 beat No. 36 Reilly Opelka 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7).

Later, Americans Sam Querrey and Jack Sock took the doubles match against Shapovalov and Felix Auger-Aliassime in a walkover.

Canada (2-0) has now clinched Group F after winning all four of its singles matches against the Americans and Italy.

Seven of the nine sets in singles matches went to tiebreaks, with Canada winning six of them.

It was Canada’s first win against the U.S., in 16 Davis Cup ties. Canada had a match record of 3-70 against the Americans entering Tuesday.

Vasek Pospisil celebrates his upset victory over Reilly Opelka of the U.S. on Tuesday at the Davis Cup Finals in Spain. (Clive Brunskill/Getty Images)

The 29-year-old Pospisil, from Vancouver, beat world No. 12 Fabio Fognini on Monday en route to Canada’s 2-1 win over Italy. Pospisil was a late replacement for Felix Auger-Aliassime (recovering from an ankle injury) against Italy.

The six-foot-11 Opelka, known for his big serve, fought off one match point against Pospisil in the second set to tie it at 6-6. But Pospisil rebounded to end it in two sets.

Pospisil, who reached a career-high No. 25 in the rankings in 2014, tumbled down the list after missing the first half of 2019 following back surgery.

But he has shown signs of progress in recent months, upsetting then-No. 9 Karen Khachanov at the U.S. Open before advancing to the round of 16 at the Shanghai Masters.

Playing a level down in Challengers earlier this fall, Pospisil captured two tournament titles in the U.S.

WATCH | Canada upsets Italy at Davis Cup: 

Denis Shapovalov and Vasek Pospisil notched a pair of upsets to lead Canada to a win over Italy on the opening day of the inaugural Davis Cup Finals. 1:52

Pospisil is now 19-18 in Davis Cup play.

Shapovalov, 20, also has been on a roll. He captured his first career ATP Tour title at the Stockholm Open last month before reaching the final of the Paris Masters.

The winners of each of the six groups and the next two best teams advance to the quarterfinals. Canada will face either Belgium or Australia in the next round.

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Don Cherry comes back with a new show

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They may have knocked Don Cherry to the ice with a hit he didn’t see coming.

Now watch him get back up.

You people out there who want the 85-year-old Cherry back, here’s the news you have been hoping for.  You people who wanted him to fade away are out of luck as the former NHL coach of the year is going to be able to exercise his free speech, after all.

Don Cherry’s Grapevine is back once again. This time as a podcast.

Coach’s Corner may be “no more” as his one-time Hockey Night in Canada sidekick Ron MacLean announced on Saturday. Cherry was fired by Rogers and Sportsnet for his “you people” who “come here” comment that was misunderstood and later spun as discriminatory.

Cherry wanted his opportunity to properly explain it. Now he is going to get that chance.

You read it right: Don Cherry and his no-holds-barred views are coming back on the air.

The Toronto Sun has learned you won’t have to wait long for the first installment of the new Grapevine. It will drop Tuesday morning and be available on Spotify and other streaming services every Monday during the hockey season.

And yes, the very first one will address Cherry’s firing from Sportsnet.

“But that’s not all we talked about,” Cherry told me Monday. “We are talking hockey, of course. It’s going to be terrific. In this one I am talking about The Rocket (Maurice Richard), one of the all-time greats.”

One thing for sure about the new show is MacLean will not be in his foxhole.

So who will be?

You may have noticed the word “we” in Don’s comments and since so many scrutinize every word he says and what he means by it, I asked.

Turns out Grapes has a new co-host. And perhaps hosts.

“My son, Tim, is going to do it with me and my grandson Del,” said Grapes. 

At least he knows they won’t turn on him when the waters get rough as MacLean did.

“They did great,” Don said of Tim and Del. ”I think people are really going to enjoy this one and the ones we do down the road.”

Tim Cherry tells me the plan is to tape and post it every Monday.

“That way we cover off what happened on the weekend in hockey,” said Tim. “It’s going to be fun.”

For Don’s fans, who are already missing him and unlikely to tune into whatever Sportsnet comes up with to replace the 38-year-old segment, this will give them the opportunity to hear what he has to say. For Don himself, it will connect him with the hockey fans and players he loves while getting back on horse quickly.

It will be in audio broadcast to start with but Tim says it could grow into a TV-style show with cameras and sponsors.

If The Grapevine title sounds familiar it’s because Don’s television show, which Tim produced, was on the air from 1982-93 — filmed in Hamilton.

The new project will feature Don talking about the NHL and hockey and whatever he wants without any censorship.

If he wants to talk about poppies, he can do it without being fired. If he wants to talk about the troops or cops or firefighters or honour the fallen, no one can tell him to keep his nose out of it.

Mostly the plan is to talk hockey. And he won’t have just seven minutes to get it all out.

“The first podcast is about half an hour,” said Tim.

But if they ever find themselves in a position to need more time, or less, the beauty of podcasts is there are no constricting rules.

It also keeps Grapes in game shape while he considers other potential TV offers and opportunities.

Mostly it’s just the perfect outlet for Don Cherry to do what he does best: Be Don Cherry.

Yes Coach’s Corner is over: The new Grapevine has just been planted. Just call this the coach’s comeback! 

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Injuries sideline Habs Drouin, Byron indefinitely

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Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron will be out of the lineup indefinitely as the result of injuries they suffered in Friday night’s win over the Capitals in Washington.

Jonathan Drouin and Paul Byron will be out of the lineup indefinitely as the result of injuries they suffered in Friday night’s win over the Capitals in Washington.

Drouin underwent wrist surgery on Monday, and Byron is scheduled to undergo knee surgery on Tuesday.

“We’ll a better idea of a timeline after the surgery,” coach Claude Julien said after the Canadiens practised in preparation for Tuesday’s road game against the Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m., TSN2, RDS, TSN 690 Radio).

The Canadiens recalled Charles Hudon from Laval. He played Saturday against New Jersey and was sent back to the minors after the game.

Julien said Carey Price will start in goal, and he will wait to decide on a goaltender for Wednesday’s home game against the Ottawa Senators.

phickey@postmedia.com

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