VANCOUVER, CANADA: As a Davis Cup by BNP Paribas contender, Canada finds itself in familiar surroundings yet in completely foreign territory as it gets set to host Italy this weekend. The tie marks the first time in the country’s history that Canada is into the World Group quarterfinals. But the Canadian team is hoping that home court advantage along with a boisterous fan-base in Vancouver, which is hosting its third Davis Cup tie in the past 14 months, can propel it into the final four.
Led by world No. 16 Milos Raonic, the Canadians will look to pick up where they left off when they upset top ranked Spain in February’s opening round at the 6,400 seat Thunderbird Sports Centre on the campus of the University of British Columbia. Raonic, who withdrew from the Sony Open in Miami last week due to strep throat, has declared himself healthy and ready to compete this weekend and it’s likely Canada will go only as far as his big serve can lead them.
The 22-year-old will play the second match on Friday taking on Fabio Fognini, Italy’s No. 2 singles player and the world No. 31. The tie will begin with Italy’s top player Andreas Seppi facing Canadian Vasek Pospisil.
Veteran Frank Dancevic suffered a minor knee injury during this week’s practice sessions and has been replaced on the team by Jesse Levine who could make his Canadian Davis Cup debut in reverse singles on Sunday.
“We have everything to gain really,” said Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau. “We beat a good team in the first round and now we’re playing a deep team and all their guys are ranked ahead of us. We’ll definitely try to use the crowd to our advantage.”
And that Canadian crowd will be behind its players hoping to help Pospisil knock off Seppi and then wanting to see Raonic use his booming serve as a weapon against Fognini. For Raonic, returning to a familiar venue with his preferred fast surface has put his mind at ease.
“We’ve come here three times (versus France last year and earlier this year against Spain) and I have a comfort here and everything just runs a little smoother and allows us to focus on the tennis,” Raonic said. “I’ve been fortunate with my game style it’s more about trying to make them adjust to me. I know I have to go out there and focus on myself and impose myself on my opponents.”
As for the Italians, they have the opportunity to silence the Canadian crowd in the early going by sending their top player Seppi out first against Pospisil. But the veteran Seppi knows Davis Cup can bring the best out in players – particularly when they’ve got a home crowd behind them.
“Canada has a good team and they’ve played already two times in this arena and on this surface so for sure they know things better than we do,” he said. “But we’ve had a good week of practice and hopefully we can play some good matches from Friday on.”
And Italian captain Corrado Barazzutti believes there is plenty at stake for both sides in this tie and figures that will bring out the best from all of the players involved this weekend.
“If you win, you’re going to the semifinal,” he said. “It’s something that has never happened for Canada, but it’s important for us too. We’ve stayed in the second division for a long time, but now we’re in the first division and we want to stay here. We have a really great tradition in tennis and we’ve waited a long time to be here with a chance to move onto the semifinals. But this will be a tough match.”
Saturday’s doubles match features veteran Daniel Nestor teaming up with Pospisil for Canada against Paolo Lorenzi and Daniele Bracciali, a late addition to the Italian team replacing Simone Bolelli, who is unable to play due to a wrist injury suffered last week in Miami.
This is the first time these two countries have faced each other in Davis Cup competition. The winner will advance to September’s semifinals to take on the winner of the USA versus Serbia tie.
The full draw is listed below:
R1: Vasek Pospisil (CAN) v Andreas Seppi (ITA)
R2: Milos Raonic (CAN) v Fabio Fognini (ITA)
R3: Daniel Nestor/Vasek Pospisil (CAN) v Daniele Bracciali/Paolo Lorenzi (ITA)
R4: Milos Raonic (CAN) v Andreas Seppi (ITA)
R5: Vasek Pospisil (CAN) v Fabio Fognini (ITA)
Follow this tie as it happens: Live scores or Watch Live
Captain Martin Laurendeau (CAN) - 04/04/2013
Milos Raonic (CAN) - 04/04/2013
Captain Corrado Barazzutti (ITA) - 04/04/2013