On The Verge of History
VANCOUVER--Maybe Milos Raonic put it best, even if it was goofy Twitter talk. Raonic tweeted, "#FrankDancevic #FranktheTank #BeastMode."
And then, "#GoCanadaGo."
Indeed. What Raonic started in the early afternoon on a bright B.C. day Dancevic finished in swashbuckling style, putting Team Canada on the cusp of a startling upset in world tennis.
Yes, it's true that Spain, the planet's top-rated tennis nation, didn't bring their best to B.C. for this Davis Cup tie. Some of it was injuries, and some of it had to be a sense by the Spanish that they have so much talent - like Canada in hockey - that even their third- or fourth-best team would be more than enough for a world tennis pipsqueak like little old Canada.
So the Spanish were still favoured, even with Rafael Nadal getting his singles career revved up again in South America and with David Ferrer and others sitting at home with their feet up.
Well, maybe the vaunted tennis Armada is not so favoured now. Canada, shockingly, leads the best-of-five Davis Cup confrontation 2-0, with three chances - doubles on Saturday, then two reverse singles matches on Sunday - to finish off Spain and advance to the World Group quarter-finals.
If Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil can't beat the superb Spanish doubles team, Raonic will have the opportunity to help Canada make history against Spain's top player here, Marcel Granollers.
That might look like a less daunting challenge after Granollers, ranked No. 34 in the world, was taken apart on Friday night by Dancevic, a 28-year-old veteran who has fallen out of the top 100 in the world and had fallen out of favour with Tennis Canada.
It was two years ago that Dancevic wasn't invited to be part of a critical tie in Tel Aviv against Israel. Wrong attitude, wrong decisions.
Well, Tennis Canada welcomed him back, and on Friday, it was all about the right attitude and the right decisions. And really, some sort of inexplicable, unbelievable out-of-body tennis performance.
Dancevic, on the heels of Raonic's convincing four-set win over Albert Ramos, used the raucous 6,200-strong audience at the University of British Columbia to his advantage and simply obliterated the favoured Granollers 6-1, 6-2, 6-2.
Dancevic's one-handed backhand was sublime, he had spectacular touch at the net, he bombed serves and forehands and, in the clinching game, fought off six break points to finish off a stunned Granollers.
Those guts got him glory. It was simply a day when everything went right for the Niagara Falls native for the first time in a very, very long time.
"I think I played the match of my life today," said Dancevic, with chants of "Frank the Tank!" still ringing in his ears.
The Spanish captain, Alex Corretja, said "it looked like (Dancevic) played like his eyes were closed today."
Corretja then added, in a bit of a backhanded compliment, "It's a shame he's not better on tour." Ouch. But then, Dancevic won't let those sour grapes ruin the best day of his tennis life, one imagines.
Now, it was 21 years ago in this very city that Daniel Nestor shocked Stefan Edberg, but it was also in that Davis Cup tie that Canada led 2-0 and then let the Swedes climb all the way back to win.
So this isn't over yet, our national history tells us. That said, it's now up to Spain to win three straight and beat Raonic, the world's No. 15 ranked player, along the way.
Nestor and Pospisil, meanwhile, played poorly against South Africa last fall in Montreal, and Pospisil is still recovering from a bout of mononucleosis. That said, the Canadian tandem defeated the top Israeli pair of Jonathan Erhlich and Andy Ram in Tel Aviv, and have had 10 days to concentrate on working as a team.
Pospisil, Canada's No. 2 in singles until now, has been able to just focus on doubles.
The Spanish duo of Granollers and Marc Lopez is, in Nestor's estimation, the second best doubles team in the world behind the Bryan Brothers.
So if Spain is to fight back, it will have to start on Sunday.
Just to be in this position, of course, is a mammoth achievement for Canadian tennis. It wasn't that long ago that Canada seemed forever stuck in zone play while the big tennis nations competed in the World Group.
Now, Canada's in the World Group for the second straight year, and on the verge of a biggest victory in international team tennis in our history.
Can Canada close? Will the pressure be too much? Will Raonic deliver the biggest win of his career on Sunday if Nestor and Posipisil are unable to on Sunday?
If not, it could come down to Dancevic and a deciding fifth rubber on Sunday. After after the performance of a lifetime, nothing seems impossible for him now.