TENNIS

Davis debutants fall to Canada

Milos Raonic blasts Ramos and García-López off court

Guillermo García-López in his match against Milos Raonic.
Guillermo García-López in his match against Milos Raonic.NICK DIDLICK (EFE / EPA)

Even though Guillermo García-López had had to wait more than 10 years for a shot at a Davis Cup rubber — he turned pro in 2002 — the Spaniard had to endure his first three points in the competition without getting racket to ball. Milos Raonic, Canada’s ace-machine, sent down 22 untouched serves in the deciding match of the tie between the two countries in Vancouver, three of them in the opening game against García-López.

The Spanish world number 82 was drafted into the fray in place of Marcel Granollers an hour before the match. Granollers, ranked 50 places higher, had unexpectedly lost to Frank Dancevic, the number 161, in the second singles match Friday after Raonic had defeated Albert Ramos, another debutant, in the opening rubber. Ramos, ranked 51, took the first set against the world number 15 but then fell to three breaks in the ensuing three to lose 7-6, 4-6, 4-6, 4-6. Granollers, against the grain of his recent standard, was thrashed 6-2, 6-1, 6-1 by Dancevic.

The doubles encounter on Saturday favored Spain — Marc López and Granollers are ranked three and five respectively — but Canada possesses the man sandwiched between them in Dan Nestor, a grizzled Davis Cup veteran with 44 ties to his name. With callow partner Vasek Pospisil (seven ties), the Canadians drew the Spaniards into a war of attrition, eventually losing 6-4, 4-6, 7-6, 3-6, 2-6. The battle was lost, but the key to war was achieved in keeping Granollers on court for the distance.

The wear-and-tear on Spain’s top ranked player in the Thunderbird Sports Arena forced Spain captain Àlex Corretja to entrust García-López with keeping Raonic from giving Canada the go. Fifty-five winners from the racket of the 1.96m Raonic — who last year posted numbers of 93 percent of service games won, 74 percent of break point opportunities saved, and 82 percent of first serve points won — to six from the Spaniard tells its own tale.

Spain, five-times winner in the past 13 years, now faces a World Group playoff match for the first time since 2006 in September. Canada, which has never been past the first hurdle, has an eminently winnable tie against Italy for a place in the semifinals, where either Serbia or the USA awaits.

Corretja had no complaints about his players after the tie, and did not blame world number four David Ferrer for choosing to rest after the Australian Open. After all, normally Spain cruises past the first round, allowing the big guns to come in against tougher opponents later on. But with Rafa Nadal making a comeback this week in Chile and Nicolás Almagro, Fernando Verdasco and Feliciano López carrying injuries, the team captain had few options. “Players are on their own to decide if they want to play or want to rest but we have no regrets about the ones who didn’t come or the ones who were here. They were trying to do their best and for us it’s always a big disappointment to go out in the first round.”

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