MADRID -- Canada beat the United States in the Davis Cup for the first time on Tuesday, emerging 2-1 winners after controversially gifting their opponents a doubles walkover on the second day of the revamped team competition to end a run of 15 straight losses.
It was Canada's first win in 16 meetings with the U.S. in the 119-year-old competition, although the teams had not played since 1965. The Americans had lost only three matches in total against their neighbors in the previous 15 meetings.
Due to the result including a 6-0, 6-0 scoreline in favour of the U.S. thanks to the walkover, the Americans still have a chance of progressing to the knockout stage, with a clash against Italy to come on Wednesday. Italy lost to Canada 2-1 in the opening group tie on Monday.
In a statement, the International Tennis Federation said: "USA was given a walkover by Canada in the doubles match of their Davis Cup tie on Tuesday after three Canadian players were passed unfit to play by the independent doctor.
"According to the Davis Cup regulations, USA receives one match win and a 6-0, 6-0 scoreline in terms of sets and games won."
Serbia's Novak Djokovic and Great Britain's Andy Murray -- both of whom won as their nations triumphed in the Davis Cup on Wednesday -- were critical of the decision to allow Canada's walkover, given the implications it has on how the group stage could pan out.
"I don't think that's good ... I think they should have played the tie," Murray said, while world No. 2 Djokovic added: "I personally don't like that ... that shouldn't be allowed to be honest. I think everyone should be obliged to come out and at least play."
Meanwhile, U.S. team captain Mardy Fish focused on his nation's impending tie with Italy: "This is the toughest group, I think, so there is no easy match. But you never know. We are going to go out there tomorrow and try to win the first one and try to put ourselves in position to do that."
In the new Davis Cup format, teams play only two singles and a doubles match in each tie, with the group winners advancing along with the two best second-place finishers in the six groups.
The U.S. has won 32 Davis Cup titles, but its last came in 2007. If it fails to win in Madrid, it will equal the team's longest gap between titles.
Opelka and Fritz said they were not surprised by the small number of American fans cheering for the team in the Spanish capital. The Canadians largely outnumbered the Americans and were much louder throughout the matches.
"Being an American tennis player, you are kind of used to not getting the support," the 22-year-old Opelka said.
Fritz said there are just "more dedicated tennis fans in Canada."
"I'm not going to lie, I think the U.S. has so many other great sports, tennis isn't really the focus," he said. "The Canadian fans were strong and they flew out and they came out. I don't think it has anything to do with the federations or anything."
The new Davis Cup is being played in a World Cup-style format with all 18 teams playing in a single venue in the same week, instead of the head-to-head confrontations that used to take place at varied sites over four weekends throughout the year.
"I think the new format is great," Opelka said. "I think it is easier to follow, it's easier to understand what's going on. The tournament starts, the tournament ends, you have a winner, you know when it's over. It's not dragging on throughout the whole year."