Canada has high hopes that the same players who upset Spain two months ago can do it again against Italy in the Davis Cup quarter-finals.
World No. 16 Milos Raonic will lead Canada into the April 5-7 best-of-five series at the Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre in Vancouver.
He will be joined by Davis Cup veterans Frank Dancevic and Vasek Pospisil and doubles ace Daniel Nestor, Tennis Canada announced Tuesday.
They will be up against an Italian squad similar in strength to the No. 1-ranked Spanish side they beat 3-2 in February. It was missing top singles stars Rafael Nadal and David Ferrer.
“The Italians have good depth as a country,” Davis Cup captain Martin Laurendeau said on a conference call. “The Spanish team in Vancouver and the Italian team we find are similar enough that we can plan accordingly.
“The table’s set for us to do it again. That will be our challenge.”
Like Spain, the Italians are best on slower clay courts, but in Vancouver they will be faced with a lightning-fast, indoor hardcourt that is Raonic’s favourite surface. The six-foot-five power server went 2-0 in singles against Spain.
“The last Davis Cup that (Italy) played indoors was on a clay court,” said Laurendeau. “Given a choice, I think the Italians would play on clay.
“We hope the surface plays to our advantage.”
Italy will counter with world No. 19 Andreas Seppi, current No. 2 doubles team Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini as well as No. 59 Paolo Lorenzi. Fognini is also a highly ranked singles player at No. 36.
The Italians beat Croatia in the first round.
Canada, which reached the Davis Cup quarter-finals for the first time, has moved up to eighth in the International Tennis Federation rankings while Italy is ninth.
The only surprise on Laurendeau’s team was that Ottawa native Jesse Levine, who recently switched from U.S. to Canadian nationality, was not on it. At No. 97, he is the only Canadian besides Roanic in the top 100.
Levine will be in Vancouver as an alternate, along with Filip Peliwo and Adil Shamasdin.
“We prepare five guys to play,” Laurendeau said. “Jesse’s part of our five guys.
“If anything happens, Jesse’s the guy to go in. But for now, he’s the fifth guy.”
Raonic pulled out of a match this week with strep throat, while Nestor has been dealing with a strained calf, but both are expected to be fit for Davis Cup duty.
Levine looks to have been bumped by the strong play of Dancevic both at the last Davis Cup tie and in recent tour matches.
Raonic, of Thornhill, Ont., is the highest-ranked Canadian men’s singles player of all time. He has had a successful start to the season, winning his third straight SAP Open title at San Jose, Calif., and reaching the fourth round of the Australian Open.
Dancevic, from Niagara Falls, Ont., has competed for Canada’s Davis Cup team every year since 2002, except when he was hampered with a back injury in 2008. He holds a 13-5 record in Davis Cup matches played on home soil. He upset Spain’s Marcel Granollers 6-1, 6-2, 6-2 in the first-round tie.
“Frank played a perfect match at the last Davis Cup and since then he’s had some good wins, so he earned a chance to play against Italy,” said Laurendeau.
Vancouver’s Pospisil will be playing his eighth tie for Canada. He was a key contributor to Canada’s return to the World Group in 2011, going 6-1 in the three ties he played.
Toronto’s Nestor holds the Canadian Davis Cup records for most years played (21), most wins (44), most doubles wins (29), and most ties played (43). Nestor holds 80 ATP World Tour doubles titles, which is fourth on the all-time list, including a career Golden Slam (all four Grand Slam trophies and an Olympic Gold medal).
Laurendeau said another bonus will be the boisterous fan support in Vancouver.
“Vancouver is a great tennis town,” he said. “They showed that last time.
“We talk about the surfaces, but the crowd is also a big factor.”
The winner will move on to the semifinals in September to face the winner of a tie between Serbia and the United States. Both countries have already qualified for World Group action in 2014 because of their first-round victories.
Other quarter-finals have France at Argentina and the Czech Republic at Kazakhstan.