Big Boys Coming To Town
Hope Canada enjoyed beating up on shorthanded South Africa last weekend.
The Davis Cup process is about to get much, much tougher.
The draw was held for next year's World Group competition today and lo and behold, if Canada didn't draw the nastiest opponent of 'em all, the mighty Spanish, without question the most powerful tennis nation on earth at the moment.
Intimidating, for sure. But this tie, set for Super Bowl weekend in February, could also be one of the biggest events in Canadian tennis history.
These days, Spain is like a travelling tennis rock show. Yes, Rafael Nadal remains out of action with knee problems, and there's concern for his career.
But Spain has 11 others in the top 100 ATP rankings, while little old Canada has, of course, just one in No. 14 Milos Raonic. Spain is also a finalist for this year's Davis Cup competition, having knocked off the Americans last weekend and set to take on the Czech Republic in the final in November.
Can you say massive mismatch?
Of course, Spain can have all those players, but they can't play them all, and in a three-of-five tie, two singles wins and a doubles victory gets you through. Let's just say Milos Raonic will have to have a monster weekend and leave it at that.
That's the formula Canada will have to focus on, and while today's draw did captain Martin Laurendeau and Co. no favours in terms of opponent, Canada does get home court, which means the Canadians can choose the venue, the balls and, most important, the surface.
Now, the days are gone when the Spanish were simply clay court artists, but you can bet Canada will try to find the slickest, fastest surface it can for this tie. Tennis Canada could also go to altitude, although the early bet is that they'll go back to Vancouver and the campus of the University of British Columbia with Victoria also putting in a spirited bid.
The other intrigue will be, of course, who the Spanish will bring. If they win the Davis Cup in November they may be less motivated, knowing that even if they lost to Canada they can stay in the World Group without breaking a sweat later in the year.
The tie is also right on the heels of the gruelling Australian Open, and some of Spain's best may play late into that event. So we'll see who actually shows up.
It's a similar situation for Canada as last winter when they drew France, and eventually got spanked 4-1. Not easy, and it would take a monumental upset to knock off Spain. But for an up-and-coming tennis country trying to regularly play with the top nations, it's also a huge opportunity.
By the way, the tie won't be going up against the Super Bowl, you can bet. It will go Friday and Saturday, and all will be completed by kickoff. So for Tennis Canada, it's as big a chance to attract eyeballs and attention as has been available for a long, long time.