It has been a long time coming. One hundred years to be precise. But Canada is through to the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group semifinals for the first time.
The reward? A trip to Belgrade, where two members of the Canadian team still have relatives, to play one of the strongest sides in the competition.
For Frank Dancevic – Canada’s hero of the first round tie against Spain – he would have it no other way and is relishing the opportunity to take on Serbia on their own patch.
“It’s really, really incredible,” said Dancevic, who advanced to the second round of the US Open on Monday with a hard-fought victory against Robin Haase 76(5) 36 75 76(3). “We’re years and years to get to this position.
“We’ve been in the World Group a few times in the past but this is a special occasion just being here in the semifinals. A lot of our guys’ history goes back to Serbian roots. It’s really fun to be there playing against a great team in Belgrade and I’m looking forward to a lot of intense fans from Serbia.”
Canada did reach the Davis Cup semifinals on its debut in 1913, but since the introduction of the World Group in 1981 the North American nation’s only victories in the top flight of the competition have come in 2013 so it’s no understatement to say that Martin Laurendeau’s team are in unknown territory.
And while the prospect of travelling to Belgrade to face 18,000 fervent home fans might fill some opponents with dread, Dancevic is practically playing in his second home.
The 28-year-old was born in Niagara Falls but his father was born in the small Serbian town of Svetozar Miletic and only moved to Canada from Europe when he was 17 years old. What’s more, Dancevic’s wife, Nikolina Bojic, is a former Miss Serbia.
Will this cause any problems when it comes to September’s Davis Cup clash? “She has to know who she cheers for,” joked Dancevic. “All in all, you have to represent where you grew up and who supported you and where you’ve been living all these years. Canada has been an incredible country to me. I absolutely adore Canada and I feel like I’m going to live there the rest of my life.”
Regardless of the fact that Dancevic might know his way around Belgrade, it doesn’t detract from the daunting prospect that faces Canada. They will play a team that includes world No. 1 Novak Djokovic, world No. 21 Janko Tipsarevic and doubles world No. 11 Nenad Zimonjic on home soil.
“I feel that it’s going to be a really good tie and our guys are playing really well lately,” added Dancevic. “We all seem to have started to play better the last month or so. They [Serbia] are a really great team, we have a lot of respect for them, but anything can happen in Davis Cup.
“We just have to go out there and fight, we’ve gotten really far so far with our unity and with how we are off court as a team and who knows what’s in store for us.”
And for Dancevic that unity is the secret of Canada’s success in Davis Cup this year.
“To get to the semifinals with Davis Cup you have to have that bond as a team,” he explained. “Everybody, the coaches, the captain, the physios, the players, everybody just sort of has to put everything else aside that week and realise that we’re all helping each other and we’re all there supporting each other and we all have to get through this together.
“All of a sudden the individual sport goes out the window. You’re playing for your teammates, your country, everybody, so it’s a different type of feeling but it’s a really great feeling knowing that you’re representing your country.”
When Djokovic led his team to victory in Davis Cup in 2010, he reiterated how much of a team effort it was to win and credited the back room staff with helping to create a family atmosphere, which made the victory all the more special.
It certainly seems that Canada has created that same sense of brotherhood among their team and the parallels with Serbia don’t stop there. The year Serbia won the Davis Cup title they had never previously won a World Group tie.
Coincidences aside, Canada are in a great place in terms of team tennis, but what is it that makes Davis Cup so special?
“I have had great results, I’ve had terrible memories, winning matches that I shouldn’t have won, losing matches that I should have won, but all in all it’s great to be representing Canada,” said Dancevic. “I’m really proud to be Canadian and to be in the semifinals of such an amazing event.
“We’ve all worked so hard to get to this point and it’s really truly remarkable that we’re here. Sometimes when I think about it I can’t believe that there’s only four teams left in the world and we’re one of them. I think not too many people expected us to be in the semifinals. We’re definitely big competitors right now.”
Canada plays Serbia on 13-15 September with a place in the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group Final at stake. Play starts at 4pm local time (2pm GMT) on Friday 13 September.