NEW YORK – The big news about Canada’s crucial Davis Cup tie against Chile Sept. 16-18 was buried in the Tennis Canada press release, as these things tend to be.
You have to scroll down to the fifth paragraph: top Canadian and world No. 6 Milos Raonic will once again be unavailable for the World Group playoff tie, which Canada must win or be relegated to the gulag of the zonal competition.
Here is the official quote from Raonic.
“It is with great disappointment that I must announce that I am unable to participate in the upcoming Davis Cup tie against Chile. Following the extreme cramping I experienced during my US Open match last week, I must undergo further testing and recovery, and I cannot compete at this time. Good luck to my Canadian teammates as they head to Halifax to play in front of our tremendous home crowd.”
Raonic also missed the first-round tie against France in Guadeloupe in early March after suffering an adductor injury in the semi-finals of the Australian Open about five weeks prior. France swept Canada 5-0 and forced the Canadians to play this tie to remain in the 16-country World Group.
Vasek Pospisil will lead the four-man squad. He’ll be joined by Davis Cup veteran Frank Dancevic, doubles specialist Daniel Nestor and 17-year-old Denis Shapovalov, who figures to see some action during the weekend – especially if Canada can clinch it early.
Here’s the official quote from captain Martin Laurendeau, which doesn’t mention Raonic.
“We have a very experienced team that will not make the mistake of underestimating our opponents. We are preparing for a tough match-up but we also know that if we play to our abilities we are an extremely strong team that belongs in the World Group. We have a very good track record at home ties and expect a loud and passionate crowd cheering us on in Halifax like we had there two years ago to help spur us to victory.”
Canada will remain the favourite to take the tie, which was not the case against France.
As a tennis nation, Chile is a long way from its best days when Fernando Gonzalez and Nicolas Massu anchored the team.
Its top-ranked player is Gonzalo Lama, at No. 172. Also on the squad is a pair of youngsters in Christian Garin (No. 275) and Nicolas Jarry (No. 484) as well as doubles specialist Hans Podlipnik-Castillo, who is ranked No. 65.
Massu is now the captain.
In addition to Raonic, there certainly are some questions marks on the Canadian side – notably Nestor.
The 44-year-old had to retire from his first-round doubles match with Pospisil at the US Open late last week with a recurrence of a calf strain he had been dealing with since before the tournament started, but aggravated early in the first set of the match against Americans Taylor Fritz and Tommy Paul.
Nestor said that on previous occasions, the recovery time was 10 days to two weeks. So that’s cutting it close, and he’s not getting any younger.
At the very least, it would be optimistic to think the veteran will be anywhere near 100 per cent for the tie. Still, he was nominated over the other Canadian doubles specialist, Adil Shamasdin.
Dancevic, who lost in the second round of qualifying at the US Open two weeks ago, took a wild card into the $25,000 Futures tournament in Toronto this week.
As for Shapovalov, the Wimbledon junior champion took a pass on playing the US Open juniors, which had been the original plan earlier in the summer. With his ATP Tour singles ranking at a career-best No. 246, he wasn’t far away from making the cut for the qualifying at the big tournament. But with a series of Challenger tournaments in the U.S. this fall, and his ranking at the point where he can get into them, the focus was forward.
If he plays, he will be making his Davis Cup debut.
Shapovalov hasn’t played a match since a pair of Challenger tournaments after the Rogers Cup; notably, he defeated Dancevic at the Gatineau Challenger. More than five weeks will have gone by since then when the tie gets under way; Shapovalov isn’t playing the tournament in Toronto this week.