VANCOUVER — Canada’s Davis Cup doubles drought is finally over.
Once the most dependable segment of Canada’s tennis arsenal, doubles has been a surprisingly weak link in the team’s recent outings — losing that key match in its past three ties against Spain, South Africa and France.
Programming alert: Tune in Sunday as Milos Raonic and Canada look to advance to the semifinals of the Davis Cup for the first time in history. Coverage starts at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT on Sportsnet Ontario, West and Pacific.
But that slide ended dramatically Saturday against Italy when Toronto’s Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil of Vernon, B.C., teamed up for a 6-3, 6-4, 3-6, 3-6, 15-13 decision over the duo of Fabio Fognini and Daniele Braccaili in World Group quarter-final action at the University of British Columbia’s Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.
"We never got negative between us, even when we were missing our shots," said the 40-year-old Nestor. "Vasek really stepped it up in the fifth set.
"That’s what made the difference."
Pospisil tried to stay focused and positive throughout the match.
"At each changeover I just kept reminding myself to keep my intensity up," said the 22-year-old. "I felt it was just a matter of time before we broke them as long as we continued to serve the way we were.
Canada carries a 2-1 series lead into Sunday’s reverse singles where Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., and either Pospisil or Ottawa’s Jesse Levine will take on Italy’s Andreas Seppi and Fognini.
Raonic, ranked No. 16 in the world, opens against the 18th-ranked Seppi, followed by either Pospisil or Levine against Fognini, who is currently the No. 31 in the world to No. 96 for Levine and No. 140 for Pospisil.
A victory by either of the Canadian singles players will send the country into the World Group semifinals in September against either the United States or Serbia.
Canada has never been in the World Group semis since the current Davis Cup tiered format began in 1981. However, Canada did reach the semi-final in 1913 before losing to the U.S.
With Pospisil playing for the second consecutive day, the 22-year-old native of Vernon, B.C., again found himself involved in a two-set lead. But unlike Friday, when the Vancouver resident couldn’t seal the deal in his singles against Seppi, this time he and Nestor pulled it out in five sets..
In the deciding set the Canadian duo picked up their game. They had break opportunities in the third, fifth, 13th and 19th games and finally converted one in the 27th on their 10th chance with the Italians serving at 13-13. Then Pospisil served out the match to the thrill of the raucous crowd at the University of British Columbia.
"After Friday, when I lost after being up two sets, there was no way I was going to let that happen again today," said Pospisil, who now has a career Davis Cup record of 8-7 in both singles and doubles. "I was going to fight for every point. After the fourth set I made some adjustments to my serve and return of serve."
Thursday, Italian team captain Corrado Barazzutti nominated Bracciali and Paolo Lorenzi to play the doubles. But after the teams split Friday’s opening-day singles he decided to substitute Fognini for Lorenzi. In addition to being a top-50 singles player, Fognini has been having an outstanding year in doubles with his normal partner Simone Bolelli, who is currently injured. Together they were in the Australian Open finals and also this year won an event in Bueno Aires.