|Canada's Milos Raonic returns the ball to Daniel Garza of Mexico during their Davis Cup singles tennis match in Toluca near Mexico City, March 6, 2011. REUTERS/Henry Romero
Milos Raonic almost single-handedly helped Canada to a win over Mexico in its Davis Cup tie in Toluca, Mexico.
The 20-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., beat Daniel Garza in straight sets (7-5, 6-3, 6-2) Sunday to give Canada the win in the best-of-five Americas Zone Group 1 first-round tie. Raonic, ranked 37th in the world, won all three matches he was involved in during the tie, including a pair of singles rubbers.
"It was a very good opportunity," said the Montenegro-born Raonic, who has insisted he will continue to represent Canada at events like the Davis Cup. "For me there's a lot of pride behind the Davis Cup and a lot of pride behind playing for your country. Especially for the growth of the sport, it's not just one person, it's the whole team and it means a lot more to the nation and a lot more to growth for future generations and the growth of the sport in Canada.
"I think this is a big thing when it's a team environment. It means that much more."
Raonic's win over Garza, who beat Frank Dancevic of Niagara Falls, Ont., in the opening match Friday to put Canada in an early hole, gave Canada a 3-1 lead in the tie and rendered the singles finale between Peter Polansky of Thornhill and Manuel Sanchez meaningless. But Polansky cruised to a 6-4, 6-1 win over Sanchez to make it 4-1 for Canada.
"I'm very glad we got the job done," Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau said. "It's always a challenge to win on the road. In Mexico, the record proves it can be very complicated. We're really looking forward to the next tie in Ecuador."
Canada's win over Mexico sets up a second-round tie with Ecuador July 8-10.
Raonic was a little nicked up for his match with Garza but indicated the knee injury wasn't anything serious.
"It wasn't by any means a serious issue," he said. "I had a little bit of a muscle spasm, a 24-hour thing. It wasn't anything serious."
Raonic pounded out 24 aces against the Mexican, ranked 439 in the world, despite playing on clay. The big-serving Canadian is considered a hard-court specialist who struggles on clay but that wasn't the case against the Mexicans.
"I think I have a lot of work to do on clay," Raonic said. "I'm going to do a full clary-court season so I should improve a lot on it. It will help my game in general, it will have a positive effect on every other part of my game."
Raonic, ranked 37th in the world, played a role in Canada's two other wins over Mexico. He beat Sanchez in singles on Friday then paired up with Vasek Pospisil of Vernon, B.C., to down Luis Diaz-Barriga and Miguel-Angel Reyes-Varela in doubles play Saturday.
Pospisil was a late replacement for doubles specialist Daniel Nestor, who had to pull out due to an inflamed Achilles tendon.