VANCOUVER, CANADA: Understandably, Milos Raonic is the face of Canadian tennis. With his powerful serve and his rapid ascension up the professional ladder, he’s the player most people associate with the sport in this country.
But as Canada’s continued success in the 2013 Davis Cup by BNP Paribas is showing there is enough depth behind its star player to make the nation a force to be reckoned with on the world stage.
Raonic won both of his singles rubbers in this weekend’s quarterfinal victory over Italy and has now won seven straight Davis Cup singles matches. However, it’s taken more than the contributions of the hard-hitting 22-year-old to put Canada into September’s semifinals against Serbia.
In its two Davis Cup ties so far in 2013, Canada has had four different players record at least a point. In February against top-ranked Spain, Frank Dancevic rose to the occasion to knock off Marcel Granollers in a first-day singles match. And veteran Daniel Nestor paired with Vasek Pospisil to record a victory in a marathon doubles match against Italy.
Consider, too, that Jesse Levine, a world top-100 player, has now been granted permission by the International Tennis Federation to represent his country of birth giving Canada another option for future competitions. And, in the not too distant future, Canada hopes that 2012 Junior Wimbledon and Junior US Open champion Filip Peliwo will bring his game along to the point he’ll earn consideration to be selected for the Davis Cup duty.
“We have great depth. We’re in a good position, we feel, as a team but we’re continuing to improve and we’re learning,” Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau says. “The team feels good about itself knowing that we have great chances in singles with Milos and in doubles. This is all new territory for us – this quarterfinal match was and it will be again when we head to Serbia.”
Slowly, but surely, Canada has put the pieces in place that have allowed it to earn respect from established tennis powers. And the winning is clearly rubbing off on the players who have formed a tight bond and now see themselves as a team playing for a flag and country rather than a collection of individuals playing for themselves.
“We’re getting along better on the court and off the court, we’re sticking it out for each other and it’s a fun experience,” Raonic says as he begins to set his sights on Serbia. “You don’t try to be the best in the world at something if you’re not ready to take a challenge head on. We’re ready for this.”
And for the captain, who has been at the helm for nine years now, he’s taking great delight in the growth of Canadian tennis. But when it comes to the next round of Davis Cup action, he’s taking nothing for granted.
“It’s a long summer of tennis all the way from Europe through the US Open so we’ll keep at it the way we’ve been going about it,” he says. “We’re just looking forward to another great opportunity. This is a win-win scenario for us really.”
And after knocking out Spain in the opening round and Italy in the quarterfinal, Canada has shown it has enough talent on its roster to make a push for a spot in the Davis Cup final. Certainly Milos Raonic will have to lead the way, but he now has a team behind him capable of getting the job done.