Vernon’s Vasek Pospisil helped Canada take a commanding 2-0 lead over South Africa in its best-of-five Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off tie on Friday in Montreal.
Pospisil started the day by defeating Izak Van der Merwe 6-3, 6-4, 6-4 to give Canada the early advantage. World No. 15 Milos Raonic then secured the second point for his team with a 7-5, 6-4, 7-5 win over South Africa’s rookie Nikala Scholtz.
Pospisil was strong from the start and captured an early break of serve in each of the three sets to take control of the match. Van der Merwe, who became South Africa’s No. 1 player after Rik de Voest suffered a wrist injury earlier in the week, was unable to capitalize on his chances, converting only one of six break point opportunities.
This is Pospisil’s first Davis Cup victory since his dominant performance against Israel in the world group playoffs last September.
“It feels incredible to get the first point for our team,” said Pospisil, currently 116th on the world ATP list. “There’s a lot of pressure and expectations that come with playing Davis Cup. I care about representing Canada, so this means a lot.”
Raonic lived up to his heavily-favoured billing against NCAA player Scholtz, who was making his Davis Cup debut. Though Scholtz handled himself extremely well, his inexperience showed through in the late stages of the first and third sets when poor service games allowed Raonic to close out the match in straight sets.
“I didn’t play as well as I wanted to, but what’s important is that I got the win,” said Raonic. “Vasek won as well and we are in a great position for the rest of the weekend. I’ll work on my game and be ready for Sunday.”
Canada needs just one victory in the final three matches to secure the win. Saturday’s lineup saw a doubles pairing of Daniel Nestor and Pospisil take on Raven Klaasen and Van der Merwe. Today will feature the reverse singles matches with Raonic up against Van der Merwe and Pospisil against Scholtz in a potential deciding rubber.
“We sent a clear message to our opponents today,” said Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau. “It’s certainly a great position to be in up 2-0, it doesn’t happen very often and it’s up to us to make the most of it tomorrow.”
A win over South Africa will allow Canada to keep their place in the elite 16-team World Group for 2013 while a loss would relegate them back to the Americas Zone Group I.