The man they call “Frank the Tank” has a new job.
Frank Dancevic, the 33-year-old from Niagara Falls, Ont. who is still an active player, was named the new Davis Cup captain by Tennis Canada Thursday.
The move represents some refreshing, out-of-the-box thinking by the national federation, and is a popular choice with the players who make up Canada’s Davis Cup team.
The hiring was finalized Monday night. But Tennis Canada, for whatever reason, put a tight cone of silence on the news although a conference call had been planned for Thursday.
They finally announced it at 8 a.m. Thursday.
Longtime Davis Cup captain Martin Laurendeau (who had been on the job since 2004 and a team coach before that) has been the full-time coach of rising star Denis Shapovalov this season.
And the dual role – rightly or wrongly – inevitably led to charges of conflict of interest.
Notably in Ottawa last February.
Laurendeau nominated the then-17-year-old Shapovalov to play singles against Great Britain in the absence of Milos Raonic. And, after a poor initial performance on Friday, he put him in again for the reverse singles on Sunday, in the fifth and deciding rubber against Kyle Edmund.
That, even though the older and far more experienced Peter Polansky was on the bench. It was a lot for an inexperienced kid to handle.
Shapovalov struggled, and eventually was defaulted from the match after the incident with chair umpire Arnaud Gabas.
Two jobs one too many for Laurendeau
Laurendeau said in a statement that he decided to step away.
“After 15 years as captain, I have decided to step away from Davis Cup. It has been the highest honour to represent my country in all of the different roles that I have held over the last 34 years. Davis Cup is very intense and energy consuming. Combining the captaincy and full-time coaching on the ATP Tour made for a relentlessly busy calendar. Thus, I have decided to step down and provide someone else with the opportunity to lead our Canadian team.
“Frank is one of Canada’s most experienced Davis Cup players, which will certainly serve him well in his new role. I am delighted to hand the torch to a former pupil, especially to one with whom I have shared many memories on the court. I wish all the best to Frank and the team. And I will continue to follow Davis Cup very closely!”
New wave players, and captain
Dancevic has worked with some young players in Montreal during recent injury down time. But he comes to the job without any notable coaching experience.
His youth and current proximity to the game make him a good fit with the next generation of players coming up.
And Dancevic has significant experience as a Davis Cup player. In the era before Pospisil and Raonic, he often carried the squad on his shoulders along with doubles star Daniel Nestor.
He has competed in 24 ties, every year but one from 2002 (when he was a 17-year-old) through 2016.
Along with veterans Raonic (who hasn’t played Davis Cup for a long time) and Vasek Pospisil (who has been a stalwart), the duo of Shapovalov and Félix Auger-Aliassime are expected to anchor the squad for the next decade.
As it happens Dancevic lives in the Montreal area, a quick drive away from the National Training Centre at Uniprix Stadium.