Milos Raonic couldn't hold back the tears after defeating Guillermo Garcia-Lopez on Sunday. (Getty)It was done without Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro on the other side, but Canada’s victory over Spain in the first round of the Davis Cup World Group was historic nonetheless.
It was the country’s first ever win in a Davis Cup tie and propels them into the quarterfinals where they’ll take on Italy in April. Spain’s team captain Alex Corretja says the fact that Spain didn’t have its top players competing in the tie doesn’t take anything away from the Canadian victory.
He told the Vancouver Sun Sunday:
“You didn’t beat a B team. You beat Spain. In Spain, we have lots of good players. We didn’t have Nadal, Ferrer, Almagro, Lopez . . . it is true. But I say, the Canadian people should enjoy this. It’s a great opportunity for them. They’re a very dangerous team. They have a good chance to reach the (Davis Cup) semis. Canada beat Spain 3-2. When Barcelona plays soccer against Real Madrid, the only thing that counts is who wins. Never mind who the 11 players are. If we had beaten Canada without Milos Raonic, do you think I would be sad for that? No. I would be so happy. I would not look on it like we beat Canada’s B team. The B team, the C team, I don’t care. They beat Spain.”
The Canadians will once again have the choice of venue for April’s event, and with the success they had this weekend, it's hard to imagine Canada choosing to play on anything other than a hardcourt surface. Because that’s where Milos Raonic can shine and where he can get the most out of what Guillermo Garcia-Lopez called the most dangerous serve on the ATP World Tour.
Garcia-Lopez went head-to-head with the top Canadian singles player on Sunday in the match that proved to be the clincher for Canada. Raonic defeated the Spaniard in straight-sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 using his serve to help him get out to an early lead. He finished the day with 22 aces.
But while Raonic led the Canadians with two victories over the weekend, arguably the biggest story of the tie was Frank Dancevic’s upset over Marcel Granollers on Friday. Dancevic is ranked 166th on the ATP Tour while Granollers is ranked 34th, yet the Canadian dominated his Spanish opponent taking the match in straight sets 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 and giving Canada a healthy 2-0 lead heading into Saturday’s action.
And it’s the victory that proved to be the difference for Canada as even without their biggest names Spain was still favoured to win all the matches that didn’t involve Raonic.
Granollers and Marc Lopez defeated the Canadian pair of Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil in doubles action and Albert Ramos defeated Dancevic in the final match of the tie. Had Granollers been able to come up with a victory against Dancevic on Friday Canada likely wouldn’t be in the position they’re in now.
The 28-year-old Dancevic told the Vancouver Sun on Sunday:
“This weekend was really amazing,” Dancevic said. “It brought back memories of when I was 18 years old, in a World Group match (against Brazil), when I ended up beating a guy ranked 400 spots ahead of me. It was amazing playing out there. I really got the energy from the crowd. It was special. What makes Davis Cup special is team unity. This week we were just really united. And that got us through -- to make history and beat the No. 1 team in the world.
But Dancevic’s success also creates some complications for Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau. Jesse Levine will be eligible to compete against Italy in April and he’s currently ranked 80th on the ATP Tour. While he’s the only other Canadian singles played ranked in the top 100 it’s hard to deny that Dancevic has at least made a case for himself to be Canada’s second singles player come April.
And while Spain with a fully healthy roster is filled with the top stars on the ATP Tour, Italy isn’t. Raonic will likely be the highest ranked singles player in the tie and other than Andreas Seppi, who is ranked 18th on the ATP Tour Italy doesn’t have another player ranked in the top 30 which bodes well for players like Levine and Dancevic.
For now though Canada’s focus can be put towards celebration as whichever way you look at it they knocked off the top ranked team in the world over the weekend and in April they’ll once again have the chance to make history.