Dan Evans must try to quell the fearlessness of youth after Canada put their faith in 17-year-old Denis Shapovalov for this weekend’s Davis Cup clash.
The Wimbledon junior champion will open the tie against Evans at Ottawa’s Arena at TD Place on Friday in his first-ever live rubber.
The boot is on the other foot for Evans, playing in his first tie as British No 1 in the absence of Andy Murray.
The 26-year-old has frequently been the lower-ranked wild card trying to upset the odds, but must cope with the extra pressure and expectation his elevation into the world’s top 50 brings.
He knows what an exciting talent Shapovalov is, having faced him at a second-tier Challenger tournament last year, winning in three sets.
The young Canadian went on to post a statement win over Nick Kyrgios at the Rogers Cup in Toronto last summer and has already claimed a top-ten scalp this year in France’s Pierre-Hugues Herbert.
“It was a good match,” Evans said of their first meeting. “He played pretty well and I won in three tight sets. It will be a good match. He has quite a big game, he likes to be aggressive and dictate the play. I have to try and get on top of him rather than him being aggressive.
“In Davis Cup there’s always some upsets so I have to respect Denis and give it my all.”
The rankings favour Leon Smith’s visitors, with Evans and Kyle Edmund at 45 and 47 respectively compared to 234 for Shapovalov and 133 for Vasek Pospisil.
Canada captain Martin Laurendeau drafted Peter Polansky – at 128 the highest-ranked player available to him – into the team when Milos Raonic pulled out through injury but has stuck with Shapovalov.
Smith was not surprised, saying: “Denis was named in the original team, Polansky was a replacement so you’d except Martin to go with his original pick. I’ve done it before, I picked [Edmund] to play in a Davis Cup final. When they’re ready, they’re ready.”
The draw, conducted in the grand surroundings of the Reading Room at Canada’s parliament, pitted Pospisil against Edmund in the second rubber today while Saturday’s doubles will feature Pospisil and 44-year-old Daniel Nestor taking on Jamie Murray and Dom Inglot.
Shapovalov has never played a best-of-five-sets match, while his only Davis Cup experience came with a dead-rubber win against Chile last September. But the teenager appeared unfazed by the task ahead of him.
He said: “We’ve toned down training a bit to make sure my body is ready for maybe five sets. I wanted to play the first match, kind of set the tone for the team. It’s going to be a little bit different but I think I’m ready for it. The whole team believes in me so I think it’s going to be good.”
At 26, Pospisil should be coming into his prime but he has slumped over the past 13 months, going from a high of 25 in the rankings in 2014 to 133 now.
He has won only ten tour-level matches since the start of last season but hopes this weekend can be the platform for a climb back up the rankings.
He said: “It has been a tough 12 months for sure but I’ve had some good matches. I know what my level is and hopefully I can use this weekend as a springboard as well and get my confidence and my groove back. Davis Cup has tended to bring the best out of me.”