Canada caused, without a doubt, the biggest surprise of the first day of the Davis Cup. If Spain came with a team deprived of its best elements, it remained the favourite, as all of their players, at least in singles, were higher-ranked than all of the local players, with the exception of Milos Raonic.
Milos Raonic was the first one to take the court. Expected to win against Albert Ramos, it was a little more difficult than expected from the Canadian no 1 player, partly due to the resilience of his rival. On his Davis Cup debut, Ramos showed a lot of grit, coming back from a mini-break down in the first set tiebreak and capitulating on his first set point, on Raonic’s serve, to take it, 7-5.
The Spanish joy was short-lived, as Raonic broke the Spaniard at the start of the second set, and from then on, never looked back. Despite wasting 12 break chances, he relied on his powerful serve throughout the whole match, never conceding even a single break point to his rival, to give Canada a 1-0 lead with a 6-7(5) 6-4 6-4 6-4 win.
“Frank the Tank”
Then came the biggest surprise of the first day, as World no 166 Frank Dancevic took on no 34 Marcel Granollers, in a match many thought would go Spain’s way. After all, Granollers is a competent hard-court player, and quite better ranked than his opponent.
However, it was the Dancevic of before his many injuries who took the court, the one with not only that exquisite one-handed backhand, but the aggressive, confident Frank Dancevic whom we thought would break into the top 20 at some point.
Fast surfaces suit Dancevic’s game well, that is a fact. With his fine serve and aggressive game, the Niagara Falls native has the tools to shine on quicker-paced courts, and he showed it in the second rubber.
“Zoning” doesn’t begin to describe how we could see Frank Dancevic, who looked throughout all the match as though he was the 34-ranked player… and made Granollers look like the no 166 player in the world.
Crisp volleys, precise serving, great confidence, Dancevic, to use the old cliché, really saw the ball like a watermelon and gave absolutely no chance to his dumbfounded opponent, destroying him 6-1 6-2 6-2 in 1h48 to give Canada an unexpected 2-0 lead in the tie against the defending runner-ups.
A perfect performance by Dancevic, who really played the best match I have ever seen him play. This incredible display of tennis had him quickly labelled “Frank the Tank” by his team-mates, deservedly.
Close to the exploit
Canada is one win away from reaching the Davis Cup quarter-finals for the first time in its history, an exploit that was close to happening 20 years ago, against Sweden, but was not to be.
It will be up to Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil to try and clinch the doubles rubber (and the tie) against the third best doubles team in the world, Marcel Granollers and Marc López, this Saturday in Vancouver.
Granollers and López are a team that give a lot of trouble to veteran Nestor. However, with the incredible support of the crowd, everything is possible.
Spain has never come back from a 0-2 deficit in Davis Cup, and Canada is about to inflict them a first-round defeat for the first time since 2006, when Belarus crushed them 4-1.
Can Canada do it? We will find out late on Saturday afternoon.
(Photos: Jeff Bough via Davis Cup)