MONTREAL, CANADA: Now they have secured their return to the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group, Milos Raonic and his Canadian teammates will be looking to get a foothold among the elite nations of tennis.
Canada are going back to the World Group for a second straight year on the strength of a 4-1 win in their play-off tie against South Africa.
Raonic, who is ranked 15th in the world, won both of his singles matches. He delivered the decisive third point for Canada in the fourth rubber with a convincing 62 62 64 win over South Africa No. 1 Izak van der Merwe on Sunday.
The 21-year-old rising star would love to play in front of a Canadian crowd once again when he and his countrymen next take the court together. That, of course, will turn on the luck of Wednesday's draw for the 2013 edition of Davis Cup.
"We have to play one of the top eight teams, and all eight teams are tough," Raonic said. "Hopefully we can play at home. I think that will help us out, but if not we have got to be ready to perform because we can't only win when the situation is in our favour. We've got to step up and sometimes fight diversity and find a way to win there as well."
Raonic wants to make sure that he and his teammates take full advantage of the ample time to prepare for Canada's next Davis Cup World Group tie in February.
"We have chances to improve," Raonic said. "We're all quite young, so that's a big part. And then it's about being eager, being hungry, wanting it, and I definitely want it, and I'm going to try to instill that - if it's not already - in my teammates as much as I can."
Canada have lost each of their four previous World Group ties, including a defeat to France at home in Vancouver back in February.
"We're really looking forward to the first round of the World Group and trying to reach our goal which is to win there," Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau said.
Vasek Pospisil and Frank Dancevic also delivered wins against South Africa as Canada swept the singles rubbers.
"It was a great week," Laurendeau said. "Playing at home and winning 4-1 for the World Group, you know, we'll take it. We had some good crowds and we're back in the World Group, which is where we want to be. Doing it two years in a row shows that we belong at this level."
South Africa, which won the Davis Cup in 1974, fell short once again, losing a World Group play-off for a fourth straight year. John-Laffnie de Jager called Canada the strongest opponents his team have faced since he became the South African captain in 2005.
"They're a great team," de Jager said. "I definitely think they're the best team that we've played against. Milos, that first two sets today was proof why he was 14th in the world. He couldn't do anything wrong. With Vasek playing No. 2 and Frank as their No. 3 player, they have a solid doubles team, so for them, they're looking good."
Suprisingly, Canada's only loss was in Saturday's doubles rubber, when veteran specialist Daniel Nestor and Pospisil were upset in straight sets by van der Merwe and Raven Klaasen.
"I take my hat off," de Jager said. "(Saturday) was a great match for the guys. It kept us alive in this tie and we just have to keep fighting. It's our goal to get in the World Group."
Already without No. 1 Kevin Anderson, who declined to play in the tie, South Africa lost Rik de Voest to a wrist injury on Thursday.
Nikala Scholtz stepped up to play two singles rubbers as his country's No. 2, including a gutsy 75 64 75 loss to Raonic in his Davis Cup debut in Friday's second rubber.
South Africa have not made it to the World Group since 1998.
"We're obviously disappointed," de Jager said. "We came here and we wanted to win and unfortunately things didn't work out the way we had planned. You know, Rik getting injured didn't help our cause. If we have a full-strength team it's tough for us to beat these guys with our strength in the top 20. Two of our top guys didn't play. I thought the team that was here did their best."