VANCOUVER, CANADA: Milos Raonic delivered when Canada needed him to. Playing the second rubber of the day and trailing France 1-0 after Jo-Wilfried Tsonga had posted an easy victory over Vasek Pospisil, the 21-year-old used his booming serve to defeat Julien Benneteau 62 64 75 to even the Davis Cup by PNB Paribas World Group first round tie at one match apiece.
Raonic broke Benneteau with a powerful overhead smash to surge ahead 5-4 late in the second set and didn’t look back as he rolled to victory. With a boisterous crowd urging him on, the rising Canadian star did not disappoint tennis fans in his home country unleashing 24 aces and punctuated the victory with one to close out the victory. Raonic was never broken and faced only two break points in the match which lasted 2 hours and 17 minutes.
“My job is to take care of my serve and hopefully the rest goes the right way and I did that and that’s always a goal and I’m really happy with that,” Raonic said. “What I did well was keep a really good level for the whole match and the focus I maintained really paid off.”
In the first match of the tie, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga gave France an early 1-0 lead with a straight sets victory over Vasek Pospisil. The world number six used a strong serve and took advantage of numerous unforced errors to easily defeat the young Canadian 61 63 63.
“I played well,” Tsonga said following the match. “I was really aggressive at the beginning and it gave me the opportunity to win this one in straight sets. It was my goal to put a lot of pressure on him and I did it well. He’s young and he needs some experience like this to improve his game, but it was a good victory for me and the French team.”
Tsonga won 91 percent of his first service points and was never broken in the match. He managed to neutralize Pospisil’s serve by breaking the Canadian twice in each of the first two sets and a total of five times in the match.
Playing in front of family and friends in his hometown on Canada’s west coast, Pospisil had trouble settling into a rhythm early and the 21-year-old made 36 unforced errors compared to Tsonga’s 16.
“It was a very tough match,” said Pospisil. “I was expecting a tough match obviously playing a guy who’s ranked sixth in the world. Maybe I had a nervous start and did a few things that were sub-par for me like my serve. But it was tough. He made very few unforced errors and he played a great match.”
With the victory, Tsonga’s Davis Cup singles record improves to 8-2 while Pospisil falls to 3-3.
Pospisil will likely return to the court Saturday to partner veteran Daniel Nestor in doubles against the French duo of Benneteau and Michael Llodra. The winner will take a 2-1 lead to Sunday’s reverse singles.
While his country came into this tie as a heavy favourite, French captain Guy Forget is not surprised that these countries split their opening matches.
“Some people thought that France was going to win easily,” Forget said. “When I was reading the papers, I was thinking these guys don’t know how well Canada can play. And here we are and it’s really far from over.”
As for Forget’s Canadian counterpart, Martin Laurendeau, he says he’s content with the Day 1 results.
“Davis Cup is full of surprises and emotions and it can go either way, but really it’s where it should be,” he said. “Both number ones took care of business today. Tsonga played a flawless match. He didn’t miss a ball and played really well and Milos was serving bombs and was in the zone.”
Friday’s matches marked the return of Davis Cup by PNB Paribas play to Vancouver for the first time in 20 years.
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Captain Guy Forget (FRA) - 10/02/2012
Captain Martin Laurendeau (CAN) - 10/02/2012
Vasek Pospisil (CAN) - 10/02/2012
Milos Raonic (CAN) - 10/02/2012
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) - 10/02/2012