You can only hit so many tennis balls in the practice days leading up to a Davis Cup tie, and both the Canadian and Japanese teams are getting close to that point with just one day remaining until the first round World Group match-up begins Friday in Vancouver.

“I think the practices – you take what you need out of them,” Milos Raonic summed up on Wednesday after a two-hour session on court with Vasek Pospisil at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre on the campus of the University of British Columbia. “You don’t bust yourself trying to be in perfect shape. You just try to get yourself in the best shape possible come Friday, Saturday or Sunday, whichever day you may play.”

While Raonic and Pospisil only practiced with one coach each on the court, the Japanese team doesn’t exactly travel light. It seems to believe there’s strength in numbers. Although, to be fair, they seem to believe the same thing when hosting a Davis Cup tie because, a year ago in Tokyo, this blog was able to take a picture with 14 people on the court as the team practiced.


In the shot here, you can count 12 Japanese players and officials as the team takes a break during a workout.

By contrast, the max for a Canadian team would be about seven people on the court – if it was doubles and there were four players, two coaches and maybe a physio.

As the teams get ready for the draw ceremony on Thursday, there’s still some speculation on the Canadian side that Frank Dancevic could be substituted for Pospisil in the opening singles against Japanese No. 1 Kei Nishikori, allowing Pospisil to conserve all his resources for the doubles on Saturday and for a potential fifth and deciding singles on Sunday.


With no disrespect to Dancevic, that option would be basically conceding Nishikori (with coach Michael Chang above) the win in a way similar to how Raonic is being pretty well awarded a victory over the Japanese No. 2 on the opening day.

With Nishikori ranked No. 4 and Raonic No. 6 in the ATP rankings, it would be a huge surprise if a player ranked outside the Top 60 (Pospisil is closest at No. 62) was able to knock off either of those top-tenners.

Raonic doesn’t seem to subscribe to the theory of holding Pospisil out of Friday’s opening singles, and sounded surprised at the mere suggestion of it.

“That’s speculation to me,” he said. “Regardless, I think Vasek has been playing well. I think you just go out there and you play. I don’t know what the whole strategy would be behind it. But we’re not here to sort of calculate, we’re here to try and go and win our matches.”

Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau appeared to tip his hand when asked if he expected any surprises at Thursday’sdraw ceremony when Canada and Japan name their singles players for Friday’s matches. “You can look at it any way you want,” Laurendeau said. “You can say that we want our No. 1 guy to set the tone for the weekend, or maybe we want Vasek to start so that he can get more time to rest for the doubles. It’s got to be one of those two scenarios. So we’re prepared for either of them.”

There’s still some question as to who will be the Japanese No. 2, the opponent for Raonic on day one. With Tatsuma Ito ranked No. 85 and Go Soeda ranked No. 86, there’s not much to choose between the two and their games are also quite similar.

Since the beginning of the year, Soeda has had slightly better results, winning rounds at the Australian Open (Elias Ymer) and Zagreb (Matthias Bachinger), while Ito reached the final of a Challenger event in Hong Kong.

Soeda played No. 2 to Nishikori a year ago in Tokyo – losing his opening match 6-4, 7-6(2), 6-1 to Dancevic. There’s a sense that Ito, 26, might be the choice this time over the 30-year-old Soeda.

Whatever the pick, if the scoreline is 1-1 after Friday’s singles, the doubles will be of paramount importance. On Wednesday, the Japanese team went through some intense doubles practice with Nishikori partnering Yasutaka Uchiyama, with whom he surprised Daniel Nestor and Dancevic 6-3, 7-6(3), 4-6, 6-4 in the doubles last February in Tokyo at the Ariake Coliseum. But Nishikori also played with Ito, which probably was not that significant as Uchiyama is expected to be the choice.

It was interesting to observe Chang during the Japanese practice session. He was, of course, talking to Nishikori but he was also occasionally giving advice to Soeda and Ito, even more so than captain Minoru Ueda. At one point, after Soeda got jammed by a serve, Chang advised, “turn first, get out of the way.” Later he gave Ito a tip about cutting off the angle when receiving serve in the ad court.


Often during the practice sessions, officials from one team will observe their opposition. Above, Ueda (on left in background) can be seen watching Nestor on Wednesday.



As the final preparations are completed, many things have to be checked. In the picture above, referee Wayne McKewen of Australia (also the Aussie Open referee) can be seen doing a measurement of the lighting. Apparently, it was close to perfect so there should be no problems for the players once action begins at 2 p.m. PST (5 p.m. ESTon Friday.



As for the actual speed of the court, Raonic noted Tuesday that it’s pretty quick. “The court here doesn’t bounce, this time around,” he said. “To me, (compared to) the previous times, it’s very fast and really doesn’t take much spin. The ball shoots through the court.”

Asked if that was a good or a bad thing, he replied, “it’s good. It means it’s down to more two or three-shot tennis. It forces it to be very mental because the margins for error are very small and things can happen and get out of hand very quickly.”

Dancevic, who comes in after indoor tournaments in Europe that he said were played on “plastic,” felt the court was more on the slow side.

The fact is the Premier Court surface is being used for a third tie – the first two times were for the match-ups with Spain and Italy in 2013 – so it’s understandable that the top surface would begin to wear and become a little slicker.


This weekend, the Canadian team will be cheered on by a hearty group led by Petr and Tom Pospisil, Vasek’s brothers. Captain Laurendeau places no small value on them. “We call them the Vashy Army,” he said. “They started out as kind of a family affair. It’s already been three years since Vasek played a match here against France. They’ve kind of established a tradition since and the army has grown. The fanatics traveled to Serbia, they traveled to Halifax, and here is their home base. We need a big contingent. They pulled us through our wins, especially against Italy. They make it tough on the other team and they help us play the best we can. That’s a good combination.

“A lot of times in Davis Cup, it just comes down to passion and the presence of the crowd uplifting our game.”

Vancouver Post Card


This picture was taken at the Spanish Banks and is a view across English Bay over toward West Vancouver. Eastern Canadians will be envious to hear that there’s not a trace of snow anywhere in Vancouver – rather the grass is summertime soft and the daffodils and the tulips are in full bloom!