Davis Cup captain Martin Laurendeau says the table is set for Canada to make history and chase down its first victory in the World Group when Spain visits for a first-round tie in Vancouver next weekend. Now Canada just has to execute.
The Canadians will avoid facing Spain's top two players in Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer. Canada also has the advantage of choosing the playing surface, opting to put in the exact same super-fast hard-court specifications used at the San Jose ATP tournament, where Canada's star player, Milos Raonic, has won two titles.
"We have made sure the court suits our No.1 as best as possible – a fast court, and we have control of the court and we have the advantage of the crowd," said Laurendeau by phone from Melbourne, where he has been studying Canada's opponents as they play in the Australian Open. "We're playing indoors and we're very grateful to avoid playing Spain on clay. The table is set for us to play in our best conditions and for us to win that tie."
Raonic, World No. 15, will lead Canada, along with doubles specialist Daniel Nestor, Frank Dancevic and Vasek Pospisil at the Thunderbird Sports Centre, February 1-3.
Spain, the five-time Davis Cup champ, will be without Nadal, who has been sidelined with a knee injury since June. Ferrer is sitting out this round, currently on to the semifinals of the Australian Open. Nadal has beat Raonic twice, while Ferrer has defeated the Canadian four times.
Instead, No.11-ranked Nicolas Almagro will lead Spain in the first-round match. Captain Alex Corretja also chose doubles team Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez. No. 51-ranked Albert Ramos will also make his debut for the national team. Granollers is also ranked No. 33 as a singles player. While doubles has traditionally been a strength for Canada, this Spanish doubles team is a Top 5 contender on the ATP Tour and plays in an unconventional up-back style.
"Granollers and Lopez are playing extremely well. I wouldn't be surprised if they finish No.1 or No.2 in the world as a team this year," said Laurendeau. "Even without their top, top players, the Spanish team has a lot of depth and we will have to play very good tennis to win this tie."
Winner of five Davis Cups between 2000 and 2011, Spain is currently the top-ranked Davis Cup team. Ferrer guided the Spaniards to last year's Davis Cup final, where they lost to the Czech Republic. Canada has never won the Davis Cup. Raonic has a 2-0 record in matches against Almagro.
Canada and Spain met in Davis Cup play one other time – in 1991 – when Spain won 4-1 in the World Group first round.
The winner of this tie will move on to the World Group quarter-finals and will also be guaranteed to keep its spot in the World Group for the following year. The loser must play a World Group play-off tie to keep its spot in the elite level in 2014.