VANCOUVER – Canada is still in control going into today’s rubbers, and captain Martin Laurendeau’s team has a great chance of advancing to the quarter-finals of the Davis Cup World Group for the first time in the country’s history.
That was the message from the Canadian camp following Saturday’s doubles loss to Spain, when the highly ranked pair of Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez dispatched Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil in five sets.
Canada leads the best-of-five tie 2-1 after that loss, needing to win just one of Sunday’s two singles encounters to advance.
Sunday’s first match sees Milos Raonic face Granollers, or perhaps Guillermo Garcia-Lopez should Spain opt for a substitution given Granollers’ poor singles performance on Friday.
Programming alert: Coverage of the Davis Cup continues Saturday, Feb. 3 at 2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT on Sportsnet East, Ontario, West and Pacific. | TV schedule
“We have our No. 1 guy going into the first match, being up 2-1 and Milos revels in this kind of limelight,” Laurendeau said Saturday evening. “He’s being put on the stage, and throughout his career, when he’s playing on centre court against big names and stuff, he seems to rise, so that’s what we’re counting on.”
While Saturday’s loss was naturally disappointing for Canada, it was not unexpected, as 22 year old Pospisil had overcome a bout of mononucleosis in December. The Vancouverite doesn’t have the reputation of his teammate Nestor or his opponents either, all three of which are ranked as top 5 players in the doubles game.
The fact the Canadian duo were underdogs going in takes some of the sting out of the defeat – as does the knowledge Raonic remains the favourite in Sunday’s opening rubber against Granollers.
“We’re in a great position,” Pospisil said. “If we knew two days ago we’d be up 2-1 going into the final day, we’d be very happy with that and I think we’ve all put in great efforts. ..we weren’t too far from closing the deal [Saturday] but we have two strong singles guys going in for us [Sunday] and the whole team is showing really good, really confident.
“We’re one match away from making a historic run and that was the plan and I think everybody’s ready for that.”
Thornhill, Ontario, native Raonic is ranked No. 15 in the world while Granollers is also a capable singles player at No. 34. But if Friday’s opening day is any indicator, Granollers struggles to deal with the pace of the medium-fast hard court at the University of British Columbia’s Doug Mitchell Sports Centre.
Raonic also hits the ball harder than teammate Frank Dancevic, who obliterated Granollers on Friday in straight sets – and Spain’s captain Alex Corretja has admitted the task ahead of his top seeded player in this tie will be immensely challenging, calling Raonic “nearly unbeatable” at home on the hard court during a press conference earlier this week.
That view was echoed by Granollers himself following his doubles win Saturday.
“Playing against Milos here is tough,” Granollers said. “He’s one of the best players in the world on this surface. To beat him, Guillermo or me, we’ll have to play a very good match, very solid.”
While Granollers acknowledged the possibility Garcia-Lopez could face Raonic on Sunday in his place, he insisted he feels energetic enough to play despite already competing in rubbers Friday and Saturday.
“I feel okay – we played four hours, but four hours in doubles is not the same like in singles,” Granollers said. “[On Friday], I played not even two hours, so I feel fresh, so Alex has to decide who plays [Sunday], so we’ll talk later.”
Corretja himself was coy when asked about the possibility of Davis Cup rookie Garcia-Lopez stepping in for Granollers to keep the tie alive.
“We have four guys here,” Corretja said. “Everyone has to be ready.”
Should Granollers or Garcia-Lopez pull an upset and defeat Raonic, Dancevic will face Albert Ramos in the decisive fifth rubber.
Note: Due to the “dead rubber rule,” if Raonic wins in straight sets the fifth rubber must take place; however, should he win in four or five sets, the teams can choose to scrap the meaningless fifth match.