Raonic won’t play for Canada in Davis Cup due to cramping issues

Milos Raonic. (Paul Chiasson/CP)

TORONTO — Singles star Milos Raonic is not on the roster for Canada’s upcoming Davis Cup playoff against Chile and doubles ace Daniel Nestor may not be available either.

Injuries have forced Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau to do some tinkering with his lineup for the Sept. 16-18 tie in Halifax.

Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil, who will handle the top singles role for the best-of-five matchup, will be joined by Frank Dancevic of Niagara Falls, Ont., and teen phenom Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont. Nestor was still named to the team Tuesday even though he’s nursing a left calf injury that forced him to withdraw from the U.S. Open last week.

Laurendeau said Nestor is currently a "question mark," so doubles specialist Adil Shamasdin will be on standby just in case.

"We’ve still got a very strong team," Laurendeau said on a conference call. "Playing in front of that crowd that was so supportive last time, we’re really looking forward to going back there. It will be very exciting, it will be challenging. We’re going in with the guys that are healthy and we’re coming in to get that win."

Canada, which dropped a 5-0 decision to France in first-round play last March, needs a victory to avoid being relegated to Americas Zone Group I for the first time in five years. Chile is currently on a six-tie winning streak and is looking to qualify for the elite 16-team World Group for the first time since 2011.

Laurendeau feels the fast indoor hardcourt at Scotiabank Centre will be an asset for his squad, which defeated Colombia 3-2 at the venue in September 2014.

"We have to focus not on Milos not being there, but on the other guys having a chance to step up," he said. "Certainly Vasek has been playing some much better tennis in the last couple tournaments and at least the last couple matches. He’s in a great position to be the leader next weekend and lead this team to victory with some good singles play and some good doubles play."

In a release, Tennis Canada said Raonic is skipping the tie due to "lingering effects of the cramping he experienced during his second-round match at the U.S. Open last week." The world No. 6 from Thornhill, Ont., battled cramping in his arm, legs and hip in a loss to American qualifier Ryan Harrison.

"He did (intend) to be in Halifax," Laurendeau said. "It just looked like his body broke down in New York. He’s having a look at that with all of the experts that he can gather and that’s what he’s doing."

After the loss, Raonic said the cramping was so debilitating he couldn’t grip his racket properly. The Wimbledon finalist, who has always considered Davis Cup a priority, said he was dropping out with "great disappointment."

"Following the extreme cramping I experienced during my U.S. Open match last week, I must undergo further testing and recovery, and I cannot compete at this time," he said in a statement.

Nestor, meanwhile, lasted only four games of his opening doubles match with Pospisil at the season’s final Grand Slam before retiring due to the calf problem.

"I still named him to the team because he lives for these opportunities," Laurendeau said. "He wants to play Davis Cup every time, injury or not. But he’s going to give himself a chance to evaluate his injury on a day-to-day basis."

Shamasdin’s last Davis Cup appearance was a July 2015 doubles loss with Nestor, who’s also from Toronto. They dropped a four-set decision to Belgium in a World Group quarter-final defeat.

Nestor currently holds the No. 12 position in the world doubles rankings while Pospisil is close behind at No. 14. Pospisil reached No. 25 in singles in early 2014 but has battled injuries at times over the last two seasons and has slipped to No. 123.

Dancevic (No. 224) will be a veteran hand for the Canadian side while the rookie Shapovalov — currently fourth in the junior world rankings and the reigning junior Wimbledon champion — gives the side a youthful presence.

Chile selected Gonzalo Lama (No. 172), Christian Garin (No. 275), Nicolas Jarry (No. 484) and Hans Podlipnik-Castillo, who’s ranked 65th in doubles. Two-time Olympic champion Nicolas Massu is team captain.

Canada and Chile have split their eight previous Davis Cup meetings. Canada is 12th in the tournament rankings while Chile sits at No. 23.

"Chile has some talented young players and has been on a pretty successful run in Davis Cup play over the last two years," Laurendeau said. "We have a very experienced team that will not make the mistake of underestimating our opponents.

"We are preparing for a tough matchup but we also know that if we play to our abilities we are an extremely strong team that belongs in the World Group."

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