In With The Big Boys Now
The elation is over. The huge task ahead now looms.
Just three days after finally getting back into the Davis Cup World Group by beating Israel in Ramat Hasharon on Sunday, Canada learned today the next step will be much more difficult.
Canada, now No. 14 in the world, has drawn the powerful French for the next round, and about the only good element to today's news out of Bangkok is that the tie will take place on Canadian soil.
After that, it's all uphill.
France is a nine-time Davis Cup champion, most recently in 2001, and was a finalist last year but lost to Novak Djokovic and Serbia. They are the fourth-ranked tennis nation in the world, having lost to the even more powerful Spanish last weekend in Cordoba, and can boast of a depth of talent that Canada can only imagine having.
Canada has one player in the top 100 in the world right now in Milos Raonic (No. 30), although Vasek Pospisil, the hero of the victory over the Israelis, is at No. 127 and rising. France, by comparison, boasts of nine top 100 players, including four - Gael Monfils, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gilles Simon and Richard Gasquet - in the top 20.
If there's good news for Canada, its that all those players can't play, so it becomes like a short series in baseball; you just need one workhorse capable of doing all the heavy lifting to get through. The French are so good that Tsonga, victorious over Roger Federer twice this year, didn't even play singles against Spain. Instead, Simon and Gasquet did that, and not successfully.
Canada's only chance will be if both Raonic and Pospisil are healthy, and if Daniel Nestor can coax another year of elite doubles out of his 39-year-old body. If Raonic and Pospisil can both win one singles rubber, the doubles will decide it.
The intriguing question now becomes the venue. Tennis Canada gets to choose, and while Calgary has been used in the past, this might be an opportunity to go to a much bigger venue and generate a higher profile for the competition.
France would obviously be a welcome gate attraction in Montreal. The Air Canada Centre is going to be used for the Raonic-Pete Sampras exhibition match in November. Then there is Vancouver's Rogers Arena, which happens to have open dates for Feb. 10-12, which is when the tie against France would take place.
Vancouver also might make sense given that the men's tour will have just completed the Australian Open in Melbourne on Jan. 29, cutting down on travel. That was a scenario that worked back in 1992 when Canada hosted Sweden at Vancouver's Agradome, the year Nestor upset Stefan Edberg.
Calgary, of course, offers altitude, which might given an advantage to Canada if the Davis Cup team was able to train there for a period of time.
All this said, it might also make the most sense not to get too ambitious, but play in one of the many junior-sized arenas across the country. A small but boisterous crowd would be infinitely preferable to a half-empty arena with little atmosphere.
If Canada is to have any chance against the French, there will have to be an effort to create at least a semi-hostile environment. The Canadians surely now this after their weekend in Israeli in front of crowds that were often nasty and rude, although Pospisil, in particular, was able to play through the noise.