February 3, 2013
Milos Raonic leads Canada to its first Davis Cup quarterfinal
By RICHARD ZUSSMAN, QMI Agency

Canada's Milos Raonic reacts after winning the match against Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez during the final round of the Davis Cup tennis tie in Vancouver, British Columbia February 3, 2013. (REUTERS)

VANCOUVER - Canadian tennis fans have always had high hopes for Milos Raonic. Now because of Raonic, the country's tennis program is as high as it has ever been.

In front of a patriotic sold-out crowd at UBC Thunderbird Sports Centre, Raonic dispatched Spain's Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 on Sunday to clinch Canada's first trip to the Davis Cup quarterfinal. Spain came into the event ranked No. 1 in the Davis Cup standings.

"To do everything we have done, I am a minor part of it the last few years. To be able to have this conversation for the first time is pretty amazing," said Raonic in a press conference following his clinching win. "I think it takes a lot of courage, resilience and determination to get through what we go through this weekend."

It was the serve that carried Raonic through on Sunday. He opened his match with three straight aces and didn't look back.

The world's 16th-ranked player also served out the match in the third with a raucous crowd cheering him on. He picked up a second serve ace to make it 40-15 and then followed with an overhead smash to win the match. It was a jubilant Canadian squad who took to the court to swarm Raonic after the clinching victory.

He finished the match with 22 aces and connected on 68% of his first serves. The hard-hitting Canadian also shone on defence, breaking the Spaniard with his first opportunity in the second set, with a backhand down the line.


The 22-year-old followed it up with a break in the first game of the third set on his way to victory. This time, is was another backhand, unleashed down the line. The breaks kept coming for the 6-foot-5 righty after a Garcia-Lopez double fault made the score 4-1 in the final set.

"He was feeling unreal, I think. He was taking chances and they were working all the time, backhand down the line all the time, he plays from the baseline all the time unbelievable," said Garcia-Lopez after the match. "With the serve I couldn't do anything."

Spain saved some face with an Albert Ramos straight set win over Frank Dancevic 7-5, 6-4 in the final match of the tie.

The Canadian loss made the final score 3-2 for the home team.

Dancevic may have been the surprise of the weekend, but it was Raonic who was the story. In the past, reluctant to take the role as Canada's tennis leader, he stepped into the role as a global superstar. The Thornhill, Ontario native had massive expectations on him, with every red and white clad fan expecting nothing less than three wins.

That is exactly what Raonic did. After dropping out of the Davis Cup tie against France in Vancouver a year ago and spending the off-season training in Spain, it was redemption time in 2013. This trip to the west coast finished much different for the Canadian star. Raonic kicked things off Friday night with 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 win over Albert Ramos.

Up next now is a date with Italy in April. The Italians beat Croatia 3-2 in its round of 16 match-up. They are led by world number 18 Andreas Seppi.

"There is not a single match, a single court I step on I don't care the surface, against a single player I don't think I can win. I will give every ounce of strength when I am out there and I think the rest of the team will too. We are going to surprise some people," said Raonic.

The tie will take place on Canadian soil again, but a host has not been named. Vancouver would be in the running to host its third straight world group tie after large, enthusiastic crowds helped propel Canada this weekend.

"It would be great, a lot of it is politics which I don't involve myself with but we'll see," added Raonic. "People will say when a tie is in Canada, you don't really want to play Canada in Canada. We just have to prove ourselves more and more."

The win also relegated Spain to qualifying for the first time in the country's history. Much was made of the absence of David Ferrer (world No. 4), Rafael Nadal (5), Nicolas Almagro (11) and Fernado Verdaso (24).

For Canada the victory ensures a birth in the world group next year and gives Jesse Levine a chance to wear the red and white in competition. The 81st-ranked player in the world, born in Ottawa, has suited up for the United States in the past after moving to Florida as a child.

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