VANCOUVER--The good news is that it didn't take long.
Canada's Davis Cup doubles team of Daniel Nestor and Milos Raonic, hurriedly thrown together on Saturday, were whipped in three sets by the French tandem of Michael Llodra and Julien Benneteau in a match that started off looking like a marathon and ended in less than three hours.
That meant, however, Raonic wasn't on court that long, which should leave him with lots of energy Sunday afternoon - and he'll need lots - when he tries to keep upset-minded Canada alive against the powerful French by trying to defeat Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, currently No. 6 in the world.
The bad news, however, was how poorly, in relative terms, Nestor and Raonic played in the doubles, beaten to the punch at every turn by the French. If Canada was to win, the two big servers need to serve big. Instead, neither could find any rhythm or efficiency, combining for a mediocre first serve percentage of 55 per cent while allowing the pumped up French to easily win two tiebreaks and then break Canada twice in the third to win 7-6 (1), 7-6 (2), 6-3.
The harsh reality for Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau is this; three matches have been played in this best-of-five Davis Cup tie, and in two of those, Canada has decidedly underperformed.
Vasek Pospisil, over his head in the opening match against Tsonga, was simply steamrolled, looking nothing like the inspired Canadian who had carried Canada to victory in Tel Aviv last September. Tsonga is the better player, but Pospisil made countless unforced errors and beat himself as much as he was beaten by the Frenchman.
He seemed to be bothered by a sore right shoulder as well, and it was no shocker when it was announced Saturday morning that Pospisil had been benched for the doubles and replaced by the power-serving Raonic.
Raonic overwhelmed Benneteau in the second match on Friday with a terrific display of serving excellence, but then came the average - at best - performance from Raonic and Nestor in doubles. By contrast, Benneteau bounced back brilliantly from the spanking he absorbed in the singles and returned serve brilliantly, albeit largely against second serves as the two Canadians simply could not impose their will on serve.
Now, the chances of Canada advancing to the quarter-finals of the Davis Cup to face the U.S., which eliminated Roger Federer and Switzerland on Saturday, have gone from small at the beginning of this tie to remote.
Canada trails 2-1, which means Raonic would have to upset Tsonga to even the competition, and then Pospisil would have to bounce back spectacularly and win the final reverse singles. Right now, that's slated to be against Benneteau, but almost certainly the Frenchman for that match, if it's necessary, will be Gael Monfils, ranked No. 13 in the world.
After three matches, this Davis Cup tie is about where most believed it would be. The disappointment for Canada is that the performances in two of the three matches has been substandard. In with the World Group big boys for the first time in eight years, Canada now needs history-making performances from two 21-year-olds to advance.