It wasn’t always pretty, but it was efficient. After Vasek Pospisil gave the first point of the tie to Canada, it was the turn of World n° 15 Milos Raonic to face a player who is ranked n° 14, but in the NCAA: Nikala (Nik) Scholtz.
When the draw came out and that people saw who Raonic was playing, there has been a lot of contempt from the Canadian fans, a contempt that really was unjustified, in my eyes. True, I had seen Scholtz in practice and I knew (and remarked) upon the quality of his serve.
And Nik Scholtz did not disappoint in that effect. Making his Davis Cup debut, the 21-year-old from Caledon made a strong impression on everyone present, by the quality of his serve, but also by the fact that he played quite toe to toe with a top 15 player, and that, for the most part of the match.
Scholtz showed much nerve to try and hold his ground against Raonic, and he managed to do so quite well until 5-5 in the first set, where he appeared pretty tight and, consequently, got broken.
In the second set, Raonic didn’t waste time to break the South African’s serve, and again held his own to get this set out of the way as well.
The third set was quite at the image of the first, where both players were quite toe to toe until 4-4, when Scholtz began to be quite tight again, double faulting twice but managing to hold serve in the end. At 5-5, no such chance, as he started with, again, two double faults. This time, Raonic took the opportunity given him to break at love. Another great service game sealed the deal for Milos and Team Canada, with a 7-5 6-4 7-5 win in a bit short of two hours.
Despite the defeat, we could see the potential of Nik Scholtz, and how his game is quite similar to that of Raonic: powerful serve, good forehand, impeccable volleys. However, Scholtz showed that he can do a little bit more on the return of serve, which, if he continues developing as well in the NCAA, could lead him to a quite successful professional career.
Canada ends the first day of the tie ahead 2-0, but Martin Laurendeau as well as John-Laffnie De Jager, the team captains, emphasised the importance of the doubles rubber, and how tricky it can be. If De Jager gave the example of past ties where a 0-2 deficit changed into a 3-2 win because of a doubles win, Laurendeau also stressed the importance of coming into the doubles rubber ready to fight an opponent who will not declare himself vanquished.
The doubles will be played Saturday at 13:00 local, and the Canadian pair of Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil will face South Africa’s regular doubles team of Raven Klaasen and Izak Van Der Merwe, a team that is used to play together in such matches and who will not give in without putting a mighty fight, of this we can be sure.