BAIE-MAHAULT, GUADELOUPE — Canada’s hopes of making a run in the 2016 Davis Cup may be over before it even began.
Milos Raonic will not play in the World Group tie this weekend against France due to the adductor injury he suffered in the semifinals of the Australian Open. Canada will also be without Daniel Nestor due to a personal matter.
Raonic withdrew from the last two ATP World Tour events (Delray Beach and Acapulco) in recent weeks because of the ailment. After having his 2015 season derailed due to injury, the Canadian is not taking any risks on that repeating this year.
The real question now is whether Raonic will be healthy enough to play Indian Wells next month. He has been rehabilitating the adductor in Los Angeles, and the thought was that he could make the convenient trip to the desert for the prestigious event where he has finals points to defend. It remains uncertain if Raonic will be ready in time to play the ATP-1000 tournament, which begins March 10.
Raonic was to anchor Canada’s Davis Cup roster against a deep and talented French squad, which will host the Canadians here on the Island of Guadeloupe beginning Friday. The thought was that by having the world No. 13, Canada would have a legitimate shot at winning his two singles matches and then hope to get either a singles victory from Vasek Pospisil (No. 45) or a Saturday doubles triumph from Pospisil and Daniel Nestor.
But with Raonic and Nestor out, Pospisil gets elevated to Canada’s No. 1 in singles and Frank Dancevic, now ranked 245th on tour, will take the No. 2 slot. Philip Bester, who made a return to the pro tour last year after hip surgery, has made his way to Guadeloupe and will train with the team this week. Adil Shamasdin could also factor in only seven months after he made his Davis Cup debut in Belgium.
France’s team is a veteran group that has made a charge up the tennis singles rankings of late. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Richard Gasquet are now nine and 10 in the world, respectively. Gael Monfils and Gilles Simon sit at 17 and 19.
Raonic had foot surgery last spring, and then dealt with hip and back issues throughout the summer and fall of 2015. He finally returned healthy this January, won the tour stop in Brisbane over Roger Federer and was playing the best tennis of his career in the Australian Open until the adductor issue flared up in the fourth set of that semifinal loss against Andy Murray. The Canadian returned home to Toronto for NBA All-Star weekend and played in the celebrity basketball game.
Canada’s best Davis Cup run was in 2013, when they reached the World Group semifinals before bowing out to Novak Djokovic and the Serbians in five tough matches on the indoor clay in Belgrade. Last year may have been the best shot at a Davis Cup title, but in the days leading into the quarter-final tie in Belgium, both Raonic and Pospisil had to withdraw because of injury and the Canadians were swept by David Goffin and company.
Raonic also missed Canada’s World Group tie in Tokyo two January’s ago after being injured in the Australian Open. Japan won that Davis Cup weekend, before Raonic helped Canada win the rematch last March in Vancouver.
The French were runners-up in 2014 (to Federer and the Swiss) and last won the competition in 2001. Yannick Noah is now captain of the France team.
Noah chose to play next month’s Canada-France tie outdoors in Guadeloupe, in large part to neutralize Raonic and his big serve. The event will be staged on clay amidst hot and humid temperatures at Vélodrome Amédée Detraux.