Milos Raonic comes through with big win to level Davis Cup semifinal tie with Serbia

The opening day of Canada’s semifinal tie versus Serbia turned out to be a suspenseful affair on the clay court, as the two nations met in Belgrade for their first ever Davis Cup meeting.

Just over three and a half hours into the second rubber, Canada’s fortunes looked to be taking a turn for the worse.

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Already down 1-0 after Novak Djokovic shook off jet-lag and fatigue for a straight sets victory (6-2, 6-0, 6-4) over Vasek Pospisil in the opening match, the Canadians faced the prospect of a massive 2-0 deficit.

Any realistic chances of moving forward in the best of five rested on the shoulders of Milos Roanic, and he was down 5-4 in the fifth set, facing match point against Janko Tipsarevic.

But Raonic would not be broken. The world No. 11 dug deep and gutted out a 10-8 victory, breaking the pesky Tipsarevic to go up 9-8 and then hammering four of his 34 total aces to seal the victory and level the tie at 1.

“This is career defining stuff for Raonic,” said Sportsnet colour analyst Robert Battaeur as Raonic, who shook off a minor ankle injury suffered in the third set, powered his way through the final game.

As Roanic’s last ace blew by Tipsarevic sealing the victory - Battaeur, a former Canadian Davis Cup team member in 1980, gave his thoughts on where this victory ranked in Raonic’s brief yet highly promising career.

“I’d call that Milos Raonic’s greatest victory in his career to date,” he said. “He is playing a tough Davis Cup player in Janko Tipsarevic. He was down match point and faced that challenge and came through in the end with just a great performance, mentally and physically. He even had a bit of ankle issue that he overcame. Wow! Talk about rising to a new level. Milos Raonic, you just did it!”

With no tie-break game in Davis Cup play like there is on the ATP Tour, it looked for a while as though Raonic may have been in for a repeat of his epic 25-23, three set loss to Jo-Wilfred Tsonga at London 2012.

His five set win (5-7, 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 10-8) over Tipsarevic means that the first ever meeting between Raonic and Djokovic, which is the first match on Sunday, will have one of the two playing with the prospect of eliminating the other nation from the competition.

Earlier in the day, world No. 43, Vasek Pospisil hung tough with top ranked Djokovic early, but after being broken to go down 3-2, did not win a game again till the third set.

Captain Martin Laurendeau is counting heavily on Pospisil (selecting him to play instead of veteran Frank Dancevic) as he is slated to play two more matches this weekend, including the pivotal doubles showdown Saturday where he is teamed with Daniel Nestor as they take on Nenad Zimonjic and lljia Bozaljac.

Pospisil will also face twenty-third ranked Tipsarevic in the fifth and deciding match on Sunday should the tie go the distance.

Canada is on a historic run at the 2013 Davis Cup, their first ever victories in the World Group came earlier this year against Spain and Italy and they are looking to reach the final for the first time.

As Canada has progressed through the tournament, they have garnered more and more attention from fans and the media as Laurendeau indicated in Thursday's press conference.

“We have really felt that Canada has responded really well to the success of this team. Media wise it’s in the front pages, it’s on TV more than ever and the support we’ve have had is fantastic.

There were roughly 400 Canadian fans amongst the 15,000 at Belgrade Arena on Thursday and there enthusiasm was not lost on the team.

The winner between Serbia and Canada will take on Argentina or the Czech Republic for the title.