Raonic helps Canada clinch berth in Davis Cup semifinals


Written by Hosea Cheung – 24 Hours Vancouver

April 7, 2013, Vancouver, BC – With everything that was at stake Sunday, it was only fitting Milos Raonic was the one getting the job done again for Canada.

After all, the nation’s highest-ranked singles player of all-time was a major reason why the Canadians were in the Davis Cup World Group quarterfinal tie in the first place.

But unlike his first match on Friday, Raonic needed an extra set to pull off another historic victory. That was to be expected though.

Facing an Italian top-20 singles player ranked just two spots below him in the world, the Canadian tennis star relied on his monstrous serve and three timely break points to keep Canada’s dream run alive.

In a masterful 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 win over Italy’s Andreas Seppi Sunday at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre, the 16th-ranked Raonic secured Canada’s spot in the semis for the first time ever.

The 3-1 win over the Italians in an eventful weekend of tennis in Vancouver now gives Canada a one-in-four chance to win the entire 2013 Davis Cup tournament.

Canada will face the world’s top-ranked singles player Novak Djokovic and the Serbians in September after they defeated the U.S. in the other quarterfinal tie this weekend.

Heading into the final day of the best-of-five tie, the stage was set after an epic doubles match Saturday that saw Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil defeat Fabio Fognini and Daniele Bracciali in a four-and-a-half-hour battle — one that eventually ended in the 28th game of an intense fifth set.

On Friday, Raonic’s win against Fabio Fognini and Seppi’s victory over Pospisil had the two sides knotted at one win apiece.

Raonic, a 22-year-old right-hander from Thornhill, Ont., has now won all five singles match in Vancouver, dating back to last year’s victory over France’s Julien Benneteau. In the first round of this year’s tournament in February, he defeated Albert Ramos and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez before dropping Fognini on Friday.

There was no denying the optimism heading into the fourth match of the quarterfinal.

With the way the middle rubber ended and the advantage of having their top singles player take to the court, the momentum was certainly in Canada’s favour. Not to mention the home crowd advantage, a rowdy nearly-sold-out one at that.

Raonic had the start he wanted, breaking Seppi on the Italian’s first service game to eventually take the first set — thanks to 10 aces and winning 20 of 23 points on his serves. A break in the third game of the second set was all it took for the Canadian to go up two sets despite double-faulting three times in his final service game.

Seppi then took the third set, breaking Raonic early and hitting several key forehand winners. It was also the first time Raonic dropped a set in Davis Cup action on a Sunday.

A critical hold by the Canadian early in the fourth set brought a resurgence in his game. Raonic finally broke the world No. 18 in the 12th game, winning the set 7-5 to a thunderous ovation at the University of B.C.

Raonic finished with 35 aces to Seppi’s 11. The fifth match was called off after Canada clinched the tie.