Team Canada grounded Spain 3-2 in their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group first-round tie Sunday at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre at UBC in Vancouver.
Canada entered the final day up 2-1 following a singles sweep of day one and a doubles loss on day two.
Milos Raonic (Thornhill, Ont.) secured the victory with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 win over Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in the fourth rubber, guaranteeing Canada’s first-ever berth in the World Group quarterfinals.
Vernon’s Vasek Pospisil teamed up with veteran Daniel Nestor of Toronto in the doubles loss [4-6, 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-3, 6-2] to Marc Lopez and Marcel Granollers.
It was tightly contested throughout the entire three hour and 53 minute match. The Canadian duo looked at times like it was going to take control, but the experienced Spaniards withstood the pressure.
Canada went up 2-1 following a tense tiebreaker victory in the third set, but Granollers and Lopez, who are ranked world No. 5 and 3 in doubles respectively, looked fresher and eventually took over.
“Obviously going five sets, I was trying to save some energy, some mental energy with crowd,” said Pospisil, who played well in his first match of the year following a bout with mononucleosis in the off-season.
“But Granollers and Lopez didn’t really give us any opening, they pretty much shut the door on us there. They played well throughout the whole match and we did the best we could with what we had.”
Raonic started strongly in his reverse singles match, opening with a service game at love. Garcia-Lopez, who was substituted into the contest by Spanish captain Alex Corretja over the originally-scheduled Marcel Granollers one hour prior to the first ball, was able to put pressure on the world No. 15’s big serve though.
The world No. 82 earned the first break point of the contest at the 2-2 mark, but Raonic was able to save it and capitalized by breaking Garcia-Lopez in the very next game. From that point, the 22-year-old Canadian was the stronger player. He opened both the second and third sets with service breaks, and added an additional break in the third, which carried him through till the end in just under two hours.
“It’s amazing to do everything we’ve done,” Raonic said. “I’ve been a minor part of it for the past few years consistently and to be able to get the win and have this conversation for the first time, it’s pretty amazing. I’m very proud with how I managed everything and how we pulled through.”
Canada had previously lost its four other World Group first-round ties – to Spain in 1991, Sweden in 1992, Netherlands in 2004, and France in 2012. Canada’s quarterfinal opponent will be Italy, who defeated Croatia 3-2 on Sunday with a win in the fifth rubber.
The quarterfinal tie will take place April 5-7 in Canada, at a location to be determined at a later date.
Canada is also now assured of keeping its spot in the elite World Group for 2014, while Spain will have to play a World Group playoff in September to retain its place in the 16-team top-tier category.
The final total attendance for the three-day event was 17,796, which is a new Canadian Davis Cup record.
For more information about Davis Cup, visit www.tenniscanada.com/daviscup.