Canada and France Tied 1-1 after First Day of Davis Cup Play

Tennis Canada

Tennis Canada

The Canadian Davis Cup team is tied with France 1-1 after the first day of play of the Davis Cup World Group first-round tie at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Vasek Pospisil (Vancouver) opened the day with a 6-1, 6-3, 6-3 loss to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, while Milos Raonic (Thornhill, Ontario) evened up the tie at one match apiece with a 6-2, 6-4, 7-5 victory over Julien Benneteau. 

Tsonga took the first rubber in routine fashion, defeating the 21-year-old Canadian in one hour, 52 minutes. The world No. 6 was just too strong on the day; saving the only break point he faced in the match at 2-3 in the second set with an incredible run to the net to turn what appeared to be a winning drop shot for Pospisil into a winner of his own. Pospisil’s serve also was not the strong weapon it normally is, as he won just 32 per cent of his second serves compared to Tsonga’s 60 per cent. 

Pospisil, currently ranked a career-high No. 115, looked shaky at the beginning of the match before getting used to the occasion and the large, vibrant home crowd in the second. 

“Obviously just to play at home like this, you can really use the momentum of the crowd, if you get that lead, or it could help you get back in the match,” Pospisil said. “I had a little bit of a chance in the second set, but I let it get away. It’s different playing at home, but he’s just a good player, he’s five or six in the world, so he 
didn’t really give me any opportunities.” 

Canada’s No. 1 player then took the court looking to keep his country out of a 0-2 hole heading into the second day. He succeeded, defeating Benneteau in straight sets in two hours, 17 minutes.

Raonic started the match on the right foot, breaking his No. 35-ranked opponent in the very first game. He turned up his play when it mattered most, also breaking Benneteau at 4-4 in the second set after being down 15-40 in the game, and at 5-5 in the third set. He served 24 aces to Benneteau’s seven, including two on the Frenchman’s only two break points. 

“I’ve done a lot of work in the off-season that’s come together the right way,” Raonic said. “My return is the biggest part that’s improved in the off-season. Last year, maybe not right after my surgery but at the end of the year what I did well was take care of my serve, and obviously I’m doing that and I think I’m a much better returner and I’m able to create more pressure so it’s all coming together well.” 

The 1-1 score heading into Saturday means the tie is now best-of-three and will not be decided until the final day of competition on Sunday. In doubles, Pospisil is set to team up with doubles world No. 3 Daniel Nestor, who is playing in his 41st Davis Cup tie. The duo was victorious in their past two Davis Cup matches in Ecuador and Israel, and will take on Benneteau and doubles world No. 5 Michael Llodra in what is sure to be a highly-competitive match.

Sunday’s opening match is scheduled to pit the two nation’s top players – Raonic and Tsonga – against each other in a potential tie-clinching match. The captains of both teams do have the ability to substitute their players up to an hour prior to the start of the match. Frank Dancevic (Niagara Falls, Ontario) is the fourth member of the Canadian team, while Gael Monfils is the fourth player on France’s squad. 

“The two No. 1s took care of business today for their country,” said Martin Laurendeau, Canada’s team caption. “Tsonga played a flawless match and Milos was in the zone on his serve and everything was flowing very nicely. So the No. 1s have a win, and that’s where we’re at, so we’re going to enjoy this performance by Milos and very shortly we’ll be looking forward to tomorrow. ” 

Canada is playing in its first World Group tie since 2004 and first at home since 1992. A win will advance the nation into the World Group quarter-finals for the first time in its history, while a loss would send the team into the World Group play-offs. 

Play will resume at 2:00 p.m. PT on Saturday with the doubles match, and at 2:00 p.m. PT on Sunday with the two reverse singles rubbers.

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