VANCOUVER, CANADA: Canada is going where it has never gone before in Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group competition.
Canada has advanced past the first round of the World Group stage for the first time in its history after knocking off top seed Spain on Sunday. Milos Raonic won his second singles rubber of the weekend defeating Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 63 64 62 to clinch the Canadian victory.
The win sparked a huge Canadian team celebration at centre court and among the 6,000 flag-waving spectators at the Thunderbird Sports Centre who witnessed the historic day for tennis in a country better known for sporting success on ice and snow.
Raonic came out firing against Garcia-Lopez who was inserted into the Spanish line-up by captain Alex Corretja an hour prior to the match. Garcia-Lopez, ranked No. 82 in the world, replaced world No. 34 Marcel Granollers who struggled in a Friday singles loss to Frank Dancevic and was then forced to five sets in doubles on Saturday.
“It’s pretty amazing and it’s something we should all be pretty proud of,” Raonic said. "There’s a lot of great feelings that come out. As much as you try to treat it like any other match, it’s quite different. Throughout that match I was trying to stay calm and try to make the most of it. I’m really happy with how I managed that and how the crowd was behind me. I hope it gives Canada more respect from everybody else. I think we’re a great nation in so many ways and in tennis we’re just trying to build up a reputation.”
Garcia-Lopez was thrown into the fire against the hard-serving Raonic who was almost untouchable early on as the Canadian started the match with three consecutive aces to set the tone for the day. In all, Raonic unleashed 22 aces in the match and surrendered only one break point .
“When we drew Canada I knew it was going to be difficult for many reasons especially on this surface,” Alex Corretja said. “Canada did better than us and we need to congratulate them. Players are on their own to decide if they want to play or want to rest. It’s not like we were underestimating Canada. Not at all. Our players didn’t come because their calendars are very busy and they chose another option. But we have no regrets about the ones who didn’t come or the ones who were here. They were trying to do their best and for us it’s always a big disappointment to go out in the first round."
On Friday, Raonic opened the weekend with a four-set victory over Albert Ramos. He is now 7-3 all-time in Davis Cup singles action and 9-4 overall. The loss for Garcia-Lopez came in his Davis Cup debut as Spain played without Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Nicolas Almagro and Fernando Verdasco.
Canada will now host Italy in the Davis Cup quarterfinals on 5-7 April. It will mark the fourth consecutive time the Canadians have hosted a tie after facing France in the opening round in Vancouver last February, South Africa to return to the World Group stage in Montreal last September and Spain again in Vancouver this weekend.
A venue has not yet been selected for the visit from the Italians, but it’s safe to assume Canada will elect to play the matches on the same hard court used in the victory over Spain.
Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau will have decisions to make about his roster and the host city in the weeks ahead. But right now he’s trying to process what his team has accomplished over the past three days.
“The closest I ever got to this as a player was 21 years ago when we were up 2-0 against Sweden and we didn’t put them away, so I’ve been waiting for this chance for a long time, but I can’t take much credit for this,” he says. “The guys performed unbelievably well. I’m really proud of the way they handled things this weekend. To win at this level, you need a huge crowd behind the team and we knew that we’d get that here. As a country, we’ve had some big wins in Group One, but for the first time ever in the history of Canada we’ve managed to get to the quarter-finals. It’s been difficult in the past because we’re unseeded and so we have to match up against a really good team right off the bat. Ultimately, we made history today and we’re all really proud and it’s such a great feeling we want to do it again in April."
With Sunday’s victory, Milos Raonic is now 13-0 lifetime in his career on the surface used this weekend after ATP wins in San Jose, California in 2011 and 2012 and three Davis Cup singles victories. Spain’s Albert Lopez closed out the tie with a 75 64 victory over Frank Dancevic in a dead rubber.
Canada and Spain had only ever met on one previous occasion in Davis Cup with the Spaniards winning 4-1 in 1991.
Milos Raonic (CAN) - 03/02/2013