MONTREAL, CANADA: Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil have put Canada in the best possible position one day into their country's Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off tie against South Africa.
Raonic secured a 2-0 lead for Canada with a straight sets victory over Nikala Scholtz in Friday's second singles rubber. Canada has now won six sets in a row, including Pospisil's win over South African No. 1 Izak van der Merwe in the opener.
"It was a good day at the office, for sure," Candaian captain Martin Laurendeau surmised at the end of play.
Ranked 15th in the world, Raonic faced Davis Cup debutante Scholtz in what should have been a comfortable win for the big-serving Canadian.
However, Scholtz refused to roll over and ensured that Raonic was forced to win three closely contested sets.
Raonic was his own harshest critic after his 75 64 75 win over Scholtz at Uniprix Stadium.
"I could have done a lot of things better," Raonic said. "I would say I'm O.K. with how I played, because I got the win. If I played this way and it didn't really turn out that way, I'm very disappointed."
The Canadian broke Scholtz's serve once in each of the three sets, and that was to prove the difference in the rubber, which was played out in 1 hour, 57 minutes.
The Canadian fired 28 aces and won 51 of 52 first-serve points. Raonic also took 17 of 28 points on his second serve to prevent his opponent gaining any sense of rhythm in the match.
"We always knew that Nik was going to have a tough match," South African captain John-Laffnie de Jager said. "Anybody playing Milos is going to have a tough match. He's a world-class player and it's amazing to watch him play. He manages his serve so well and knows exactly what he needs to do."
Scholtz, who made his Davis Cup debut, did not produce any opportunity to break Raonic.
"My main goal was to try and hold serve as much as I could, and I thought I did pretty well except for those 5-all games in the first and third sets where I just had too many double faults and gave him too many freebies," Scholtz said. "But he's a great player so I'm pretty pleased with the way I played. I would have just liked to have hit my second serve a little better, actually."
Earlier, Pospisil got Canada off to a perfect start with a 63 64 64 win over van der Merwe in Friday's first singles rubber.
Pospisil, who is ranked world No.116, won the first career meeting against van der Merwe in an efficient display lasting just over two hours.
"It's good for the whole team when you go up 1-0," Pospisil said. "The momentum is right on your side so it's good to start with a win."
The Canadian No. 2 took the initiative in the first set with his second service break. Down three points to the 188th-ranked van der Merwe, Pospisil fought back to take a 4-2 lead.
"The first service games I lost in the first set I had two game points and I didn't change those games," van der Merwe said. "I let him back in the game and he fought well and he broke on those two occasions in the first set and I thought that was kind of a fault from my side. You need to close out your service games when you have the opportunity."
Pospisil took control from that point, closing out the first set on his way to his fourth Davis Cup singles victory.
"It was a tough day," de Jager said. "I thought Izak had a few opportunities in the first set. Every service game that he had broken he had game points. He broke Vasek and he had more break points so I think that first set was very important for him. Obviously, after that it didn't go his way."
Pospisil will team up with 40-year-old veteran Daniel Nestor for Saturday's doubles rubber when they face van der Merwe and Raven Klaasen in the first of as many as three opportunities for Canada to remain in the Davis Cup World Group next year.
"The tie's not over," de Jager said. "A lot of teams have come back. Our focus needs to be to get that one point tomorrow (Saturday) in the doubles and keep the tie alive and then try and see what we can do on Sunday.
"But obviously the doubles is very important. There are a lot of teams that have been up 2-0 and end up losing. We've been in that situation. Danny is a great doubles player and he and Vasek have played together and they've had great results."
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Milos Raonic (CAN) - 14/09/2012
Nikala Scholtz (RSA) - 14/09/2012
Izak van der Merwe (RSA) - 14/09/2012
Vasek Pospisil (CAN) - 14/09/2012