Team Canada enjoyed a perfect day on Friday to set the tone in its Davis Cup World Group play-off tie against the Netherlands in Toronto. Canada’s no. 1 singles player, Milos Raonic opened proceedings with a 6-3. 6-2, 6-2 win over Thiemo De Bakker, the no. 2 player for the Netherlands. Denis Shapovalov followed up with an impressive 3-6, 3-6, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 victory over Dutch no. 1 Robin Haase after trailing two sets to none.
Raonic needed just one hour, 42 minutes to take care of De Bakker and improve his Davis Cup record to 12-1 in matches played on Canadian soil. The world no. 20 broke serve early in each of the three sets and seven times in total while only losing his own serve twice.
“I was struggling a little bit with my serve in the first set, then it got much better in the second and then I lost it again a little bit in the third again. I returned well, I kept a good level throughout the whole match and I think that putting that constant pressure on him paid off,” Raonic said after the match.
Haase and Shapovalov know eachother well given that Friday’s match was their third meeting of the season. They split the first two with Shapovalov winning in Rome and Haase returning the favour this summer at Rogers Cup in Toronto. Haase got off to a good start, taking advantage of Shapovalov’s multiple unforced errors to forge a two sets to love lead. At 5-5 in the third frame, the Canadian managed to save several break points and the momentum started to shift in his favour from that point forward. With the crowd firmly in his corner, Shapovalov fought back to force a fifth set and the 19-year-old ultimately completed the comeback to secure his first career five set victory after trailing two sets to love.
“I lost the first two sets but then in the third I started to notice that he was slightly getting a little more tired and that I was controlling more points. I took it one set at a time. After saving a couple of break points in the third set, I broke the next game to win the third and got really pumped. In the fourth and in the fifth, I felt like I had more momentum and that I was a bit fresher. I felt I was a better player than at the beginning of the match, but I want to thank the whole team who stayed behind me the whole time and gave me the faith I needed to win this match,” Shapovalov said.
Team Canada captain Frank Dancevic was very happy with the results on day one but remained focused on the task at hand.
“We are up 2-0 but like Denis proved today, being up or down 2-0 doesn’t mean much until you get the job done. Denis came back today and won the match even if he was down 2 sets to 0 and that’s the way I look at the tie. We are up 2-0 but we still have three matches to play. We are going to go out there and give everything we have from the first point to the last one tomorrow,” Dancevic explained.
Although Canada holds a commanding 2-0 lead heading into day two, Saturday’s doubes match is still important. Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil will take the court for Canada starting at 2:30 p.m. E.T. against the Dutch pair of Jean-Julien Rojer, who holds an impressive 48-12 record in Davis Cup, and Matwe Middelkoop. This will be Nestor’s 53rd and final Davis Cup match for Canada while Pospisil will be appearing in his 17th. The Canadian duo is 6-5 playing together in Davis Cup. The captains have until one hour before the start of the match to make changes to their lineup.