Coming into the match, a hotly-contested affair was expected, as both teams boast experienced, talented doubles players – Canada led by doubles world No. 3 Nestor and France by No. 5 Llodra. Benneteau also is a proven doubles competitor, with a career-high ranking of No. 15 and six titles. Raonic, who replaced Vasek Pospisil (Vancouver) for the rubber, also came into the match on a high following his straight-set win over Benneteau on Friday.
Despite Nestor and Raonic both not serving well – combining for just a 55 first serve percentage – they stayed close for two sets. The first set was the most competitive, with Canada and France both earning multiple break points.
Both the first and second set were forced into tiebreakers, which is where France exerted its dominance. Both players, especially Benneteau, returned well, ultimately allowing Canada just three points total.
“They were a better team from start to finish,” Nestor said. “I said before the match that whoever serves better, returns better today is going to win. I had a couple break points earlier, that I shanked, which is inexcusable. Those were the only ones I had. But at the end of the day, they were the better team.”
France took the only two service breaks in the match, breaking in the third set at 1-1 on Nestor’s serve and again at 5-3 on Raonic’s serve to capture the match in two hours, 37 minutes. For Nestor, the loss was only his fifth in Davis Cup doubles play in his entire 20-year career representing Canada in the world’s largest international team competition. For Benneteau and Llodra, it brings their Davis Cup record as a team to 3-1.
The tie is now down to one day, with Sunday’s opening match between world No. 6 Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and world No. 29 Raonic a potential tie-clinching rubber for France. Raonic must win in order for Canada to remain in contention to capture the tie. The fifth match is currently scheduled to be Pospisil against Julien Benneteau. Both team captains – Canada’s Martin Laurendeau and France’s Guy Forget – 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.
“Obviously I’m anxious and I’m excited to play,” Raonic said of Sunday’s match against Tsonga. “It’s going to be a difficult match. We’re both pretty much going to try to do the same thing to each other, so I’m anxious and obviously it’s going to be something tough that I’ll deal with during the match, and dig down. It’s just going out there, playing, and trying to find a way to win.”
Canada is playing in its first World Group tie since 2004 and first at home since 1992. A win will advance the country 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 in September, where it will attempt to retain its position in the top-tier category.
Play will resume at 2:00 p.m. PT on Sunday with the two reverse singles rubbers.