Raonic evens up Davis Cup series with win over Fognini

Canada's Milos Raonic celebrates defeating Italy's Fabio Fognini in their Davis Cup quarter-final...

Canada's Milos Raonic celebrates defeating Italy's Fabio Fognini in their Davis Cup quarter-final tennis match in Vancouver, British Columbia April 5, 2013. (REUTERS/Ben Nelms)

HOSEA CHEUNG, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:41 AM ET

VANCOUVER - With the way things went Friday, you would thought momentum is on Canada's side. Then again, Milos Raonic isn't convinced.

From a near upset to a straight-set victory, the opening day at the Davis Cup quarter-final tie in Vancouver had its fair share of drama. And although it ended with both Canada and Italy deadlocked with one win apiece heading into Day 2, the entertaining day of singles matches ended in the host's favour.

"It's another match tomorrow and you just got to step up," Raonic said after defeating Italy's Fabio Fognini 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5. "Down 2-0, up 2-0, it doesn't matter. You have to go out there and win.

"I know I can play better than I played today and that's a good sign for me."

With both higher-ranked singles players picking up victories for their respective countries, the two squads now turn the tie into a best-of-three with the doubles match Saturday.

After Vancouver's own Vasek Pospisil’s valiant effort in a five-set loss to world No. 18 Andreas Seppi earlier Friday, Raonic relied on his powerful serve and strong play at the net to beat a resilient Fognini at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre. And for the world No. 16 — and the top-ranked player in the tie — he continues his Davis Cup singles success, winning his fourth straight for a flawless record on Vancouver courts so far.

In a rather loose and comedy-laced press conference afterwards, the Canadian tennis star talked about how he was able to remain in control for most of the match against the world No. 31.

"I was putting it in my terms and we were playing under 'Milos can decide which way this goes',” he said. "I did slip up a little bit but I turned it around and I'm proud about how I managed it.

"I've learned within myself I play my best tennis when I'm happy."

The hard-serving Raonic broke Fognini late in the first set to win it 6-4, thanks in part to his nine aces. The Thornhill, Ont. native, who finished with 25 aces, then went the limit with Fognini in the second set with both sides holding serve to force a tiebreak — one that Raonic took 7-4.

Backed by a noisy Vancouver crowd — especially a certain section that drew the ire of the umpire several times — the 22-year-old then broke the Italian again early enroute to a 7-5 third set win. After Fognini's volley went wide to seal the victory for Raonic, he let out a roar to end the two hours and six minutes match and a long day of tennis at the University of B.C.

When asked what he thought was the difference in the match, Fognini was blunt.

"The service, what do you think? … Maybe next time I put on helmet," he said.

Earlier in the day, it was almost a deja vu moment for the red and white.

Two months ago, Frank Dancevic pulled off an instrumental upset to help Canada to a historic victory over Spain. This time around, Vasek Pospisil came close to doing the same against Italy.

But while the Vancouverite initially stunned Andreas Seppi to go up two sets to love in the opening singles match, he couldn't hold on. The 22-year-old underdog found himself pushed to the limit as the Italian came storming back to pull off the hard-fought comeback win 5-7, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

The match, which lasted three hours and 15 minutes and brought the crowd to rousing ovations, saw Italy's top-ranked singles player give his squad a 1-0 lead.

"Right from the first game he played great," Pospisil said. "He played more aggressive than the last time I played him."

A day earlier at the official draw, Pospisil -- the third-ranked Canadian singles player -- talked about his confidence coming into matchup, having beaten Seppi during the Rogers Cup in Toronto last summer. And he certainly showed it early against the improving Italian.

Despite not getting off to the start he wanted -- a double fault on the first point and dropping the opening game of the rubber -- Pospisil managed to overcome Seppi's 2-0 lead in the first set. The youngster broke back to tie it 2-2 and keep both players on serve.

Then at 6-5, the real drama began. The hometown boy came back from down 15-40 before his forehand volley winner broke Seppi to win the first set 7-5 and bring the Vancouver crowd to its feet.

Up a set, Pospisil found his way out of several jams as Seppi threatened his service game -- with the Canadian even showing some emotion after holding off his counterpart to go up 4-3. The two remained on serve until the world No. 140 broke Seppi again, this time to clinch the second set 6-4. An upset was brewing, or so it seemed.

But the 29-year-old Italian wasn't going to go down that easily. He finally broke Pospisil to take a 2-1 lead in the third set, and managed to hold on to win it 6-4. Seppi then broke Pospisil twice in the fourth set to force a deciding fifth set.

Seppi earned another break to take a 3-1 lead in the final set before cruising to the victory, giving the No. 9-ranked squad an early edge over Canada, which was making its first ever appearance at this stage of the World Group competition.

"Today I didn't felt like I was playing so good but the last three sets, I played a very solid game," said Seppi. "I tried to focus on my game a little bit more."

Pospisil finished with 20 aces and 46 unforced errors to Seppi's seven and 27, respectively.

Barring changes, Daniel Nestor and Pospisil will face Daniele Bracciali and Paolo Lorenzi on Saturday.

The winner of the three-day tie will advance to face either Serbia or USA in the semifinals.


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