VANCOUVER, B.C. – Thursday was supposed to be about the Davis Cup quarter-final draw, when Canada and Italy would learn the details of this weekend’s matchups at the University of British Columbia’s Doug Mitchell Sports Centre.
Instead, just hours before the afternoon draw, it emerged that Canadian singles player Frank Dancevic (No. 198), who was expected to play singles, is a no-go for the tie after suffering inflammation in his left kneecap.
Captain Martin Laurendeau has opted to slot Vasek Pospisil (No. 140) into the singles category in Dancevic’s place. The 22-year-old Vancouver native is ranked higher than Dancevic, so perhaps it could be said that there is the potential that the last-minute swap actually benefits the home side’s chances.
But given Dancevic’s heroic upset defeat of Spain’s Marcel Granollers in February, it’s a harsh development for the Niagara Falls native – although he’s taking things in stride.
The 28-year-old felt the pain earlier this week and notified Laurendeau and the team’s medical staff.
“To be honest, I feel a little bit disappointed I’m not playing,” Dancevic said on Thursday. “I would love to be playing, but I still feel really good about the situation. We have a really good team, really good players and I feel like this is part of Davis Cup — being true to yourself, true to the people around you, and being honest about what’s happening and stuff.
“Sometimes it’s giving other people an opportunity to take the spotlight when you’re not feeling 100 per cent. That’s part of being a team member and that’s just the way I see it.”
Italy too will be without an expected player, as Simone Bolelli, who has been struggling with a wrist injury suffered on March 23 during the Miami Masters, has not been able to recover in time for the weekend.
As for the draw itself?
Pospisil, who was set to play solely in Saturday’s doubles match alongside veteran Daniel Nestor, will start things off in Friday’s first rubber against Andreas Seppi (No. 16). The youngster has played Italy’s top player twice professionally.
Seppi took the first of their encounters in October 2011 at the St. Petersburg Open, 7-5, 7-6, before Pospisil overcame the Bolzano native 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 at the Rogers Cup in August of last year.
“It definitely helps a lot knowing that I beat him when I played him last time,” Pospisil said. “It gives me confidence going into the match knowing that I can beat a player like him and that I’ve beaten him in the past, so I mean, for sure, it’s helping me in my preparation and mentally it’s definitely better going in like that than having lost or having never played him before.”
The late match on Friday sees Milos Raonic, Canada’s top seeded player at No. 16, take on Fabio Fognini (No. 31).
In February, Raonic led off with an opening day win in that tie’s first rubber, and potentially the momentum of that result played a part in spurring Dancevic on to his straight-set thrashing of Granollers.
When asked about whether a loss to start this tie could affect momentum, Laurendeau was defiant.
“When you’re ranked 100 and something, and you go into playing a guy that’s top 20, you instinctively have to raise your level and you’ve got to go for the kill, whether unconsciously or even consciously.
“You have to go for it. Last time Frank was able to do it. That’s the approach to have – to play to win.”
For Saturday’s doubles match, Pospisil and Nestor will battle Paulo Lorenzi and Bolelli’s replacement, Daniele Bracciali, before Sunday’s reverse singles matches.
“There’s no guarantee that Bolelli and Fognini would have played the doubles anyway,” Nestor said. “Most of their best results have come on slower surfaces, and a guy like Bracciali plays better on faster courts. Seppi, too, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him play doubles on Saturday…Vasek and I have played well many times and hopefully we can get over the hump this time and win.”
As a result of Dancevic’s withdrawal, Jesse Levine (No. 96) has been named as Canada’s fourth team member for this tie. The 25-year-old was born in Ottawa but moved to Florida at age 13, and represented the Unites States from 2007 to 2012 before applying to represent Canada late in 2012.
Levine isn’t scheduled to play at all this weekend, but could come in should Laurendeau need to make a change due to injury or for tactical reasons. He’s been with the team training in Montreal in the lead up to this tie, and was part of the team’s entourage for Canada’s victory over Spain in February.
“My mindset was to be ready just in case anything happened,” Levine said. “Whatever I’m called upon to do, I’m just here to help out the team, whether that’s playing, whether that’s practicing, whatever the circumstance is. I’m here to help and do whatever’s best for the team.”