Canada has an unlikely opportunity in Vancouver this weekend. (Canadian Press)When it was announced in the September that Canada had drawn Spain in the first round of the Davis Cup World Group, the only advantage Martin Laurendeau’s team appeared to have was home court and choice of surface.
A lot has changed over the last few months. Spain will be walking into Vancouver’s Thunderbird Sports Centre on Friday with a much less daunting roster than the one Canada was expecting to see.
Spain’s Rafael Nadal, who is ranked No. 5 according the ATP rankings is still battling a knee injury and virus, David Ferrer, ranked No. 4 dropped out of the Davis Cup after a long run at the Australian Open and Nicolas Almagro, ranked No. 11 has been forced to withdraw due to injury as well.
Instead Spain will bring a roster to Vancouver comprised of Albert Ramos (ranked 51st) and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (ranked 81st) as well as the dangerous doubles pairing of Marc Lopez (ranked 3rd) and Marcel Garanollers (ranked 5th in doubles and 32nd in singles).
Spanish team captain Alex Corretja told the Globe and Mail Tuesday:
“It’s never easy to have players in front of you, when they’re playing a lot and you never had the chance. They are very good players. In another country, as I said, for sure they would all the time be playing Davis Cup.
“We’re not thinking about the guys who are not here. We’re thinking about the guys who are here. We know how these guys can play, and that’s why we’re convinced of our chances, knowing that Canada is a very strong team, but we’re going to go out there and play.”
On paper, while the names on Spain’s revamped roster don’t pop out like the aforementioned Nadal, Ferrer and Almagro, Canadian star Milos Raonic knows it’s not a team that can be taken lightly.
He told the Canadian Press earlier this week:
"It's still going to be very difficult. I think you look at the guys they brought, they are still all experienced guys, they know how to play in this situation and Spain is a country that knows how to win in the Davis Cup, so it's still a very tough situation."
And Raonic is right. Spain has won three of the last five Davis Cups – albeit with a much stronger roster of players – and when they made the final in 2012 they did so without Nadal.
While they don’t have a singles player ranked in the top-20 to match up against Raonic, Canada is thin on the singles side beyond the 22-year-old as both Frank Dancevic and Vasek Posipisil are ranked outside the top-100.
And in doubles Spain’s impressive team of Lopez and Granollers undoubtedly gives them an advantage against 40-year-old Daniel Nestor and Pospilsil who have little experience together and kept Canada from sweeping their World Group playoff in September.
So even without their top-three singles stars Spain is still the favourite heading into Vancouver, but if there was ever a chance for Canada to take advantage of a weakened squad and make a statement at the Davis Cup, it’s now.