TEBBUTT: MILOS LEADS THE LADS
Province House in Halifax, officially the Nova Scotia House of Assembly, has met continuously since 1819 and is the longest serving legislative building in Canada.
On Friday, it was the site for the draw ceremony for this weekend’s Davis Cup World Group Play–off tie between Canada and Colombia.
Following the draw ceremony, Milos Raonic was to meet a certain reporter, yours truly, for a radio interview.
When I arrived in the large chamber, I discovered Raonic (above) at the front behind the Speaker’s podium. It was an obvious great photo op.
Kyle Clapham/Tennis Canada
We then conducted an interview for the ACES tennis radio show on Sportsnet 590 in Toronto – Raonic and special guest Todd Martin can be heard this evening at 7 p.m. (EDT) or in podcast at (‘Shows’) Sportsnet590.com.
Our chat took place seated in side by side members’ desks in the legislature.
A few minutes earlier more important business had taken place when Sauveur Menella of BNP Paribas, above to the right of event referee Javier Moreno, reached into a glass bowl and pulled out a tennis ball containing a slip of paper with the name of the singles player who would be playing the first match of the tie at 3 p.m. ADT (2 p.m. EDT) on Friday.
It was Santiago Giraldo, Colombia’s No. 1 player, and that meant he and Canadian No. 2 Vasek Pospisil would be facing off in the opening match.
There was a surprise for the second match when it was learned that No. 2 Colombian, and a veteran of 25 ties, Alejandro Falla, would not be playing because of a shoulder injury incurred during practice last Monday.
In place of Falla, 30, and ranked No. 70, would be another Alejandro, Gonzalez to be specific, as an opponent for Raonic.
“It’s a bit of a setback for them but it doesn’t change much,” remarked Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau about the Colombians’ losing Falla. “As for Milos, he’s playing indoors, he’s playing on a court he loves and he’s prepared to get a win for us.”
The No. 90-ranked Gonzalez, no kid at age 25, reached a career high of No. 70 last June, a month before Raonic hit his high mark of No. 6 right after Wimbledon. At the recent US Open, Gonzalez defeated Dmitry Tursunov before losing to an in-form Gael Monfils 7-5, 6-3, 6-2.
His results have been spotty in 2014 but he did get noticed when he won a set in a 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 loss to Novak Djokovic at Indian Wells in March. He’s 6-foot-3 and has a fairly powerful game – and has some pretty good volume as a grunter, at least in practice.
Raonic was all business when discussing the change from Falla to Gonzalez. “It is what it is,” he said. “There’s a task ahead of us, as individuals and as a team, and we’ve got to face that as best as possible and find a way to win. The most important thing is to win and have an opportunity to continue to play in the World Group next year.”
It will be a first–ever meeting for Raonic and Gonzalez (middle above) and they will play after Pospisil and Giraldo (on the ends) take to the Premier indoor court surface for the opener. In their only head-to-head, Pospisil beat the Colombian 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-4 in the Washington quarter-finals in July.
The Canadian No. 2 is slated to play three matches over the weekend – something he has done three times before, always on the road – in Ecuador (2-1) in 2011, in Israel (3-0) in 2011 and in Serbia (1-2) in 2013.
About any possible burden, he said, “I haven’t had too many issues with going three matches in a weekend in the past. I’m sure if it comes down to that, I’ll be ready.”
Captain Laurendeau said he was pleased that Pospisil was playing the first match because it gives him more time to rest before his doubles duty on Saturday. But had Raonic been the first match, the cagey captain probably would have spun it differently – namely that having his No. 1 go first was an advantage.
The doubles match-up – Nestor and Popisil vs. Robert Farah and Juan-Sebastian Cabal – should be entertaining. The ATP doubles rankings of the four players are: Nestor, No. 3, Pospisil, No. 19, Cabal, No. 23, and Farah, No. 26. Cabal and Farah have won titles this year in Rio de Janeiro and Winston–Salem. Nestor and Pospisil have not played together since Basel last October.
“I’ve played them six times this year and it’s been pretty even,” Nestor said about Cabal and Farah, who was actually born in Montreal but moved to Colombia when he was two months old. “The court conditions pretty much favour both teams. I’d be surprised if it was one-sided. It’ll probably be a close match, probably five sets.”
Nestor actually played Cabal and Farah two times this year with regular partner Nenad Zimonjic and won both – in Barcelona (first round) and Madrid (semifinal).
He and Mariusz Fyrstenberg defeated Cabal – Farah in the Brisbane final in early January and then Cabal and Farah beat Nestor and Rohan Bopanna in the first round in Winston–Salem last month.
Cabal, playing with David Marrero of Spain, beat Nestor and Zimonjic in the first round in Washington in July.
So, mixing and matching, that only adds up to five times for Nestor. But the match-up provides a cool confrontation involving four world-class doubles players.
In control of all the action this weekend will be (left to right above) referee Moreno from Spain and umpires Pierre Bachi of France and Tony Nimmons of the United States.
Without Hawk-Eye, they could be under more pressure than if the electronic line-calling system was in use.
Kyle Clapham/Tennis Canada
Frank Dancevic will be the back-up for Canada, probably in both singles and doubles. Dancevic is playing his 23rd Davis Cup tie and will be presented with an award by the International Tennis Federation on Saturday.
Kyle Clapham/Tennis Canada
On Thursday morning, Dancevic and Pospisil had a light practice session – a final tune-up, and gear-down, before the hot-and-heavy action of the upcoming weekend.
As is often the case with Pospisil around, there is usually some boyish banter going on – above it includes Dancevic, coach Guillaume Marx, Pospisil and captain Laurendeau.
Beginning Friday, Canada will have to be wary of a Colombian team that seems determined to win and reach the World Group for the first time in its history.
“It’s a long weekend, we need three points,” Laurendeau cautioned, “it’ll obviously be a lot of work. They’re a good team. They have good depth. Gonzalez can play, he’s a Top 100 player. So we’ll have to win that point.”
SCHNUR’S RITE OF PASSAGE
Brayden Schnur, a 19-year-old from Pickering, Ont., is a hitting partner with the Canadian team in Halifax.
As is the Davis Cup tradition, each new squad member goes through an initiation.
For Schnur, a sophomore at the University of North Carolina, it was to dress up in a proper Nova Scotia kilt and sing ‘O Canada’ at the official Davis Cup team dinner on Wednesday night.
Here, in the hotel lobby, a fetching Brayden, showing off a tiny bit of leg, is pictured with teammates Frank Dancevic, Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil before the dinner.
HALIFAX POST CARD
Many streets in Halifax slope down a steep incline to the harbour, including George Street shown in the picture above.