Kyle Clapham/Tennis Canada

After six straight sets in singles for Canada on Friday thanks to wins by Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil, the complexion of the Davis Cup World Group Play-off between the host nation and the Colombians changed Saturday when visitors Juan-Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah beat Pospisil and Daniel Nestor 7-6(4), 7-6(7), 6-4 in the doubles at the Metro Centre in Halifax.

That means there will be one or two live matches on Sunday’s third day, beginning with top-Canadian Raonic’s slated encounter with Santiago Giraldo, the No. 1 Colombian.

There had been considerable speculation about a tidy three-in-a-row sweep for Canada but Cabal and Farah were just a little better in every facet of the game and deserved their two-hours-and-25 minute win.

The teams played through an even first set with no breaks points either way, and needed a tiebreak to decide it. After an early exchange of mini-breaks, Pospisil misfired with a forehand into the net to give Cabal and Farah another mini-break 3-1 lead and they held serve the rest of the way.

In the second set, Nestor and Pospisil broke Cabal’s serve in the opening game but the Colombians broke the Nestor serve in the very next game when a Farah lucky miss-hit forehand service return floated over Pospisil for a winner – even if it might have been retribution for an iffy baseline call against the Colombians at the Canadians’ end on the previous break point.

In the second set tiebreak, the Colombians led 6-3 – triple set point – but contrived to fritter away a couple of golden opportunities and Nestor and Pospisil rallied to 6-6. But in keeping with the way things were going for the Canadians, they never reached a set point and the Colombians wrapped it up on their fifth – a Farah forehand volley winner.

The final plot twist came in the ninth game of the last set when the Colombians broke Nestor’s serve on a double fault – an aggressive second serve that was just long.

There might have been another surprise when Nestor and Pospisil held a break point at 30-40 in the last game but Cabal served a 196 km serve to Nestor’s forehand and his return went wide.

There were several factors playing into the result, including the fact that Nestor and Pospisil have not played together since Basel last October. Still, there’s no denying that Cabal and Farah, currently No. 12 in the ATP doubles team Race in 2014, have grown into a solid tandem since they began working late last year under the tutelage of former No. 12-ranked doubles player (2008), 37-year-old Jeff Coetzee of South Africa.

And their 2014 success has been despite the fact that Farah was basically out for three months after the French Open with a forearm injury. 

Kyle Clapham/Tennis Canada

“They played like they’ve been a top team for years,” Nestor said afterward. “I think the conditions suited them a little bit more in doubles than it does in singles, but we knew that coming in. It’s tough we wanted to finish it today but hopefully we can do that tomorrow.

“We (he and regular partner Nenad Zimonjic) barely beat them (Cabal and Farah) in a match in Barcelona (April) in a match we easily could have lost, same thing in the final of Brisbane (January) – they were up and we came back.

“They serve very well, both of them, and they’re very athletic, especially Farah. Cabal’s the shotmaker. They just complement each other really well.”

Nestor, who has won eight Grand Slam doubles titles and ranked No. 1 for 113 weeks in the ATP’s individual doubles rankings, is a feather in any doubles players’ cap.

“Brisbane was the beginning of an ongoing process that we started with our new coach Jeff Coetzee,” Farah said. “The final there was a little booster and that showed we were in the right direction. We had a really close match, we could have won it. After that, we played Nestor three more times and every time was close. In Barcelona we had match points, he beat us. In the Madrid semifinals, he beat us again. But for us to beat him the last three times when (at least) one of us has played him, shows we’re at a great level too.”

Kyle Clapham/Tennis Canada

Neither Nestor or Pospisil was as sharp as they would like to have been. Both paid tribute to the Colombians, clearly the better team on the day, but Pospisil conceded that not having played with Nestor recently made things a little tricky. “It’s tough, because I haven’t played with Daniel, I’ve played with Jack (Sock),” he said. “He plays differently and there’s not too much time to prepare for this match…and I’m playing singles. I’ve been playing mainly singles points since the (US) Open. I guess it’s just the transition of having a good rhythm, a doubles rhythm, is what’s more difficult for me because, focusing on singles, and I haven’t played too many matches these past couple of weeks. I didn’t necessarily feel like I was at my best today, at the net especially.”

Essentially, Cabal and Farah practiced doubles together all week and have been playing together on and off (mostly on) for more than three years. It showed not only in the cohesion, but in their confidence. In the Brisbane final in January, the Colombians were leading by a set and break over Nestor and Zimonjic before losing 6-7(4), 6-4, [10-7]. Farah got really tight near the end – he struggled to put away the most basic of overheads. But he was a much improved competitor on Saturday.

The Colombians hope to qualify among the top-eight teams for the ATP World Tour Finals in London. “It will happen,” Farah said, “if not this year, then next year.”

Nestor was sporting kinesio tape on his lower legs, but said that it was nothing significant. “It’s just preventative,” he said. “I’ve had problems with my calves the last year or so.”

The best-of-five match tie now heads into Sunday’s singles: Raonic – Giraldo and Pospisil – Gonzalez –beginning at 2 p.m. ADT (1 p.m. EDT).

Colombian captain Mauricio Hadad was pleased with the doubles success and said, with his team’s deficit now reduced to 2-1, “we’re alive, we have our chance tomorrow to overturn it. We have two matches, especially the first one is going to be a very tough singles match. We wanted to get to Sunday and have a chance for the tie, and tomorrow’s going to be that. This gave us hope and gave us a breath and we’ll try capitalize on the opportunity we were given by this doubles today.”

Kyle Clapham/Tennis Canada

His Canadian counterpart, noted about Saturday’s doubles, “we knew it would be a close match, just a few points difference every set. I haven’t seen the stats with the total points, but I would be surprised if it was just six or seven points difference (Note: it was seven, Colombia 109-102 over Canada) between the winner and the loser. That’s how doubles is played on the tour, especially when there’s No-Ad (scoring). It’s a point here and there, and in the fast conditions here and there. And with the tiebreaks today, a point here or there and the tide can turn.”

Later on Saturday, long after all the media conferences and other interviews were done, the Canadian team braintrust – left to right captain Laurendeau, coach Guillaume Marx and Montreal National Training Centre boss Louis Borfiga – were having serious discussions on the Metro Centre court.

“Obviously, winning 3-0 would be perfect,” Laurendeau had said earlier, “but the reality is that we still lead 2-1 and we’re in an advantageous position. We’re playing at home and in conditions that favour us. We’ve got two very high-level singles players and tomorrow we start with Milos. So, if I was a Colombian, I wouldn’t really sleep that well.”

Kyle Clapham/Tennis Canada

Raonic was impressive in an expeditious dispatching of Davis Cup rookie Alejandro Gonzalez on Friday, while his opponent, Giraldo, looked shaky and uncomfortable on the fast Premier court surface in a three-set loss to Pospisil.

Unless something changes dramatically, the odds are stacked heavily in Canada’s favour going into the final day of this World Group Play-off. A spot in next year’s 16-nation World Group looks entirely probable. But strange things can happen in Davis Cup, so Canada will have to play it out right to the final ball bounce.    


It was a gorgeous morning on Saturday in Halifax and several sailors were out bright and early to take advantage of it.