Canadians healthy, happy and home for Davis Cup play
Frank Dancevic (left to right), Daniel Nestor, Martin Laurendeau, Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic during a press conference at Uniprix Stadium in Montreal, Que., Sept. 11, 2012. (SEBASTIAN ST-JEAN/QMI Agency)
Canada's Davis Cup team has numerous advantages over its South African opponents leading up to this weekend's World Group playoff at Uniprix Stadium.
The red and white team is healthy, composed of world-class tennis players and will have the support of a home crowd.
Team captain Martin Laurendeau said it's an "enormous" advantage to perform in front of fellow Canadians.
"We're in Montreal, it's nice outside," he said Tuesday. "We're expecting to get a warm welcome from the crowd."
While the fans are sure to show up ready for the matches Friday through Sunday, the Canadian team better be as well, or Canada could be eliminated from the World Group entirely. The top 16 tennis nations comprise the World Group annually. Countries outside of the top 16 must go through regional zone qualifying.
Canada lost to France in the first round and it needs to beat South Africa this weekend to stay in the World Group.
Canada is considered the favourite, led by Milos Raonic, Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil. Moreover, South Africa will be without its star, Kevin Anderson, seeded 35th in the world. It's highest-ranked player this weekend is Izak Van der Merwe, No. 232 in the world rankings.
However, Laurendeau said that when it comes to the Davis Cup, rankings mean little.
"We will have to take one match at a time this weekend," he said. "We play our hearts out here, for our country. It could turn a medium player into an exceptional one -- and vice versa."
Nestor said the 2012 team is the best Canada has fielded since he started playing in Davis Cup competition 20 years ago.
"Milos is already a player who is part of the world tennis elite," Nestor said. "Vasek is also an excellent player in singles and doubles."
Canada's captain shared similar feelings.
"We have a good mix of young players and veterans," Laurendeau said. "Our two young guys (Raonic and Pospisil) already played in the World Group (against France in February in Vancouver), and they were only 21 years old."
Last year, Canada was fighting to get into the World Group and this year it's fighting to stay in.
"Psychologically it's different," Laurendeau said. "If we lose, we can't return (to the World Group) before 2014. We don't just want to be members of the World Group. We want to the be the first Canadian team to reach the quarters, the semi-finals etc."
Canada and South African haven't played each other in Davis Cup action since 1913, when Canada won. Canada has spent one year in the World Group after having been out for eight consecutive years.