Canada beats Colombia, retains Davis Cup World Group spot

Milos Raonic won his second singles match in three days as Canada dispatched Colombia to keep its place in the Davis Cup World Group for 2015.

At the Halifax Metro Centre on Sunday Canada had two chances to take the best-of-five series up 2-1. A singles win by either Raonic or Vasek Pospisil would lift Canada to victory in the two nations’ Davis Cup Play-off. The crowd didn’t have to wait for a nail-biting fifth rubber as Raonic made quick work of Santiago Giraldo 6-1, 7-6 (7-2), 7-5.

The Canadian star – ranked seventh on the planet in men’s singles – showed world class domination in the opening frame, breaking Giraldo twice in the first set for a comfortable 6-1 victory in just 24 minutes.

Milos Raonic was in control of the match against Santiago Giraldo from the start.

Milos Raonic was in control of the match against Santiago Giraldo from the start.

Giraldo was more focused in the second set and refused to let this one get away from him, fighting off break points in a long third game. Neither player was to have their service games broken, leading to the tiebreak where Raonic won the opening point on a mini-break and roared on to a 7-2 win.

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Raonic broke Giraldo in the fourth game of the final set, returning the Colombian’s serve with a cross-court forehand winner before consolidating to take a commanding 4-1 lead. Despite Giraldo winning a break point in the seventh game, Raonic regained his composure and closed out the match on his 13th break point opportunity.

Raonic hit 21 aces against Giraldo, giving him 52 in the two rubbers against Colombia. He will take a few days to train before continuing with this season that will hopefully end with a trip to London, England for the 2014 ATP World Tour Finals. As of entering Davis Cup, Raonic was just outside of meeting the top eight qualification mandate for London.

One man who was “relieved” to see Raonic put the tie away was team captain Martin Laurendeau. Canada took an assertive 2-0 series lead after Friday, but then dropped the doubles match on Saturday. Leaving things to a deciding fifth rubber would’ve been tempting fate. Here are a few thoughts from Laurendeau:

Frank Dancevic played the fifth rubber for Canada in a three sets match against Alejandro Gonzalez. The Colombian battled back after losing an entertaining first set to the Canadian to take the match. Canada officially beat Colombia 3-2 in the best-of-five.

On Thursday Laurendeau and co. will learn who their first round opponent will be in the 2015 World Group.

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Saturday’s match

Canada missed a chance to close out its Davis Cup tie on Saturday as the Colombian duo of Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah beat Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil in straight sets.

The loss still keeps Canada ahead in the best-of-five series 2-1, with a pair of singles matches to play on Sunday. A win in either contest would give Canada a berth in the elite 2015 Davis Cup World Group.

The home crowd in Halifax was at its best once again, but so were Cabal and Farah, committing only nine unforced errors in the contest. The pair play together regularly on the ATP tour and their familiarity showed as they won 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (9-7) and 6-4.

Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah embrace after keeping Colombia alive in their Davis Cup tie versus Canada.

Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah embrace after keeping Colombia alive in their Davis Cup tie versus Canada.

Neither team offered a break point opportunity in the first set, holding serve convincingly, setting up the tiebreak where the Colombians never trailed and ultimately pulled away winning 7-4. That was the first set dropped by Canada in this Davis Cup tie. Pospisil and Milos Raonic won their singles matches in straight sets a day earlier.

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Canada looked to gain momentum breaking the Colombians in the opening game of the second set to the roaring approval of the home crowd. But the South Americans broke right back and consolidated. Colombia took firm control of the second tiebreak as they had done in the previous, but Nestor and Pospisil valiantly fought back from three consecutive set points, then a fourth before succumbing 9-7.

Daniel Nestor (right) and Vasek Pospisil during warm-up prior to their Davis Cup match versus Colombia's Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.

Daniel Nestor (right) and Vasek Pospisil during warm-up prior to their Davis Cup match versus Colombia’s Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.

The final set too looked like it would go the distance, until the Colombians broke Canada on Nestor’s serve at 4-4 and consolidated serve to win the match.

On Sunday, Colombia will continue with its do-or-die display in a battle of top singles players for the two nations. Canada will send Raonic to the hard court to face Santiago Giraldo. Should there be a fifth rubber necessary to settle the tie, Pospisil is likely carry Canada’s hope against Alejandro Gonzalez, although Frank Dancevic is also available for team captain Martin Laurendeau to select for the red and white.

Friday’s matches

Vasek Pospisil started the process of giving Canada a stranglehold in its Davis Cup tie against Colombia and teammate Milos Raonic completed the Friday sweep.

Pospisil beat his higher ranked Colombian opponent Santiago Giraldo 6-3, 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 in Friday’s opening match in the Davis Cup World Group play-off. Raonic then took the court at Halifax Metro Centre and delivered a 6-3, 6-3, 6-2 victory over Alejandro Gonzalez that gave Canada a 2-0 lead in the tie.

The country that wins the best-of-five (which consists of four singles matches sandwiching a doubles tie over three days) takes a spot in the elite World Group for the 2015 Davis Cup contested between the planet’s top tennis nations.

Pospisil consolidated a break in the first set before holding off Giraldo, saving his final service game to take the lead on Friday.

Pospisil fans show off their "V-A-S-E-K" tshirt in Halifax.

Pospisil fans show off their “V-A-S-E-K” tshirt in Halifax.

Despite some early frustrations in the second set, Pospisil showed tremendous character, feeding off a loud, supportive crowd in Halifax to fight back from down a break to force a tiebreaker. There he completely dominated Giraldo to take a two-sets-to-zero lead.

In what proved to be the final set, Giraldo looked out of gas against an increasingly confident Pospisil and the relentless Canadian supporters who used every opening in the match to get behind their player. Pospisil comfortably served out the match taking the third set 6-3.

Raonic took on Gonzalez in the second rubber of the day, hoping to give Canada a massive advantage heading into Saturday. Gonzalez – making his Davis Cup debut – had replaced the more experienced Alejandro Falla in the Colombian team this week after the latter suffered a shoulder injury.

Raonic delivers an overhead volley to finish a first set rally against Gonzalez.

Raonic smashes an overhead volley to finish a first set rally against Gonzalez.

It took 41 minutes to complete the first set thanks largely to a long third game where Gonzalez, 25, repeatedly threatened to break the Canadian. After surviving multiple break points, Raonic fired a couple of his customary aces in the 210 km/h neighbourhood to hold and didn’t look back.

The second set took just over a half hour with Raonic up a break early. The Canadian broke his Colombian opponent in the final game to win the set, leaving Gonzalez a very steep hill to climb.

In the final set Raonic sprinted ahead to a 3-0 lead, consolidating a break in the third game to the approval of the partisan home crowd on way to Canada’s second consecutive straight-sets victory. Raonic won 75% of his first serves versus Gonzalez’ 59% success and the Canadian hit 31 aces while the Colombian could only manage one.

Now up 2-0 in the best-of-five, Canada has a chance to close out the Colombians and keep its place in the World Group for the 2015 Davis Cup. On Saturday, Pospisil will partner doubles legend Daniel Nestor against the experienced Colombian duo of Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah, who will look to extend their country’s 2015 Davis Cup hopes into Sunday.

Daniel Nestor graphic