Gallagher: Two Canadian Davis Cup wins are almost a given against Spain, but what about the third?
If this weekend’s Davis Cup tie was being held in Spain it would be over before it started, but given the Doug Mitchell Arena location in UBC beginning Friday, the advantage may in fact swing to Canada.
For starters, if Milos Raonic is healthy the way he claims to be after spending some time off in Whistler, the Canadian team should have two singles wins in the bag before you even begin to think of the other three matches.
The surface was made to order for his game. It’s the same one they use in San Jose, the tournament where he’s won twice, and he’s undefeated on it. Furthermore, it works tremendously well to thwart the Spanish strengths, even though both opponents will be players ranked in or near the top 50 in the world depending upon who is chosen.
While rankings never mean as much in Davis Cup, there should be a CSIS investigation if he even gets into trouble against either player.
The hard-court records of the Spanish players are not exactly suggestive of great success against the Canadian rocket launcher, although perhaps a full week to train and prepare on the surface officially dubbed “medium-fast” by Spain’s captain Alex Corretja may allow them to get a bit of a foothold.
Consider 26-year-old Marcel Granollers — who is ranked 34th in the world, 3-2 this year and 42-50 lifetime on hard courts. Many of those matches have come on a court significantly slower than this one.
For Albert Ramos — who is ranked 51st, 0-3 this year and 11-25 for his career — and Guillermo Garcia Lopez (82nd, 0-3 and 78-104 lifetime) it’s the same. Most of the choices to play these tournaments were made because the surface is slower than this one.
Canada’s problem is winning that third match.
Now if Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil is completely healthy after his bout with mononucleosis last December, he would figure to have an even-up chance on this surface against any of the Spanish singles players. His serve is his strength and he now has experience playing in front of the home crowd, something that seemed to leave him feeling a little like a deer in the headlights the last time he went through this experience in the Cup tie loss to France last year.
“The last time, I wouldn’t say I was in my own skin really,” was the way Pospisil put it, having felt the pressure of playing Davis Cup in front of friends and family even though he had already starred for Canada on the international stage in Israel to get them into the World Group.
“Everyone goes through it but I’d say I’ll be better for taking that experience”
But there are concerns as well. He hasn’t yet played this year and lost his last three matches at the Challenger level, although clearly his illness may have been a factor there as well.
Spain would have to be considered slight favourites in the doubles, given Canadian veteran Daniel Nestor calls Marc Lopez and Granollers “the second best team in the world right now” and you don’t get that kind of praise or make any money as a doubles specialist unless you’re playing on all surfaces. So they’re good.
But any team with Nestor on it playing at home should be solid, although the veteran hasn’t been at his best in his last two Davis Cup matches and it’s still unclear who plays with him. Pospisil is the most likely, but we thought that against France and Raonic played.
With Pospisil likely in doubles, using him three matches in a row coming off mono is unlikely, which brings Frank Dancevic into play. The veteran from Niagara Falls, Ont., already proved he can be competitive here when he battled Jo-Willy Tsonga in the tie against France when Raonic pulled the chute on the Sunday.
The court genuinely suits Dancevic’s game, and who could forget his terrific performance against Brazil in the deciding match in Calgary in 2005 to put Canada into the World Group? He could also be a possibility although the last time he played a five set match was on grass at Wimbledon in 2011 and he hasn’t played overly well on the world stage since winning a high-profile Challenger in Dallas in March of last year.
Before it’s all over, this one could be a helluva lot of fun.
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