Davis Cup Drama
MONTREAL--Davis Cup can be an unpredictable creature, one in which the normal laws of the tennis world often don't apply.
So sure, be disappointed that Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil didn't lock up a victory for Canada over South Africa in their Davis Cup tie on Saturday. But understand, at the same time, that Roger Federer and Stan Wawrinka lost to a pair of much lower ranked Dutchmen in Amsterdam on Saturday, and that playing for one's country often produces different performances than otherwise might be expected.
Canada, needless to say, is still in the driver's seat against shorthanded South Africa, which would need Izak Van Der Merve, ranked 188th in the world, to upset No. 15 ranked Milos Raonic today, and then would also need Ole Miss collegian Nik Scholtz to record his first ever Davis Cup win in the fifth and deciding rubber match against either Pospisil or Frank Dancevic to deny Canada entry to the World Group for a second straight year.
So no reason to panic. A little apprehension, however, is allowed.
Raonic, with Canada leading the tie 2-1 after sweeping the singles matches on the opening day, can put an end to all of it at 11 a.m. Sunday morning at Uniprix Stadium against Van Der Merve, and should. Raonic was on his feet on Saturday exhorting Nestor and Pospisil to fight back against the South African team of Van Der Merve and Raven Klaasen, and this from the beginning looked like a weekend on which he could assert himself as the new leader of the Canadian Davis Cup effort.
What better what to do that than to play closer on Sunday?
It's a great chance for Raonic, who has attracted all kinds of attention for big matches this year against the likes of Federer, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and Andy Murray, but not been able to produce the stirring victories many wanted.
Van Der Merve, to be sure, isn't in the class of those opponents. But he's more than capable, serves big and has some solid Davis Cup success on his resume. He didn't play well in losing to Pospisil on Friday, but Raonic was also disatisfied with his effort against Scholz despite winning in three sets with 26 aces.
"I think we'll see a lot better out of Milos (on Sunday)," said Canadian coach Martin Laurendeau.
Saturday was a tough day for Nestor, who just turned 40 and has announced a new partner for next year, but has lost three big international matches for Canada this season; one at Davis Cup last February against France, one at the Olympics and Saturday's contest in which both he and Pospisil delivered sub-par performances in a straight sets loss.