VANCOUVER, CANADA: After beating top-seed Spain in the opening round of the Davis Cup by BNP Paribas, Canada is daring to dream about just how far it can go in this competition.
Led by Milos Raonic and with home court advantage once again in the next round against Italy, the Canadians are starting to believe they can be a force on the world stage.
Canada will host the Italians in a quarterfinal on April 5-7 and captain Martin Laurendeau is hoping the relatively quick turnaround will allow his team to keep the momentum it gained by toppling a powerhouse like Spain.
“You have these windows of opportunities that come around not very often and a lot of success in Davis Cup goes with the draw and where you play,” Laurendeau said after Canada advanced past the first round of the world group stage for the first time in its history.
“If we had played in Spain the result might have been different, or the score. But we played here in Canada and we’re playing the next one in Canada and that’s a lot easier than playing on the road. So when that window is open, you have to take that opportunity because it might not come around for a few years after that.”
The win over Spain is the latest significant development for Canadian tennis over the past 12 months. Along with Raonic rising into the world Top 20, Filip Peliwo captured the Junior Wimbledon and US Open titles last year, while Eugenie Bouchard won the junior girls crown at Wimbledon. And now as Canada prepares to host Italy in the quarterfinal, its Davis Cup roster could get a boost with the addition of Jesse Levine.
The world No. 88 was born in Canada before moving to the United States, but has recently been granted ITF approval to represent his birth country in Davis Cup play. He’s eligible to make his Canadian debut in the next round if selected to the roster.
All these positive strides have Milos Raonic hoping that tennis is capturing the imagination of more and more Canadians – particularly young ones.
“Hopefully some kids that were sitting on the couch watching tennis today will pick up a racquet and ask their parents to take them to play,” he says. “If we could get even five or ten kids to do something like that, I think that would be pretty amazing.”
And Frank Dancevic, whose straight-sets singles win over Marcel Granollers gave Canada a commanding 2-0 lead over Spain, feels good about the state of the game in this country and thinks the exposure gained from Davis Cup success will only help the sport grow.
“I think Canadian tennis is better than ever,” he says. “I think it’s great to see the support and funding that so many young players are getting. We’re definitely on the right track and we just have to keep going.”
The next step will be to find a way to beat Italy in the quarterfinal. The host venue for that tie has not yet been selected, but wherever the matches are held there is no doubt a supportive Canadian crowd will be there to urge on the home team. Canadian tennis is heating up and it seems Canada as a country is coming down with a case of Davis Cup fever.