After overcoming a bout of strep throat, Milos Raonic has declared himself 100 per cent ready for Canada’s historic Davis Cup World Group quarter-final tie against Italy in Vancouver this week.
The 22-year-old was forced to pull out of last month’s Sony Open in Miami prior to a third-round date with American Sam Querrey. But after spending time away from the court to recover from the ailment, the 22-year-old is feeling healthy again and is looking forward to opening the tie against the Italians at the University of British Columbia on Friday.
“I had quite a few days off so as soon as I got (to Vancouver) I was 100 per cent and ready to train,” the world No. 16 said after practice on Monday.
“By the time I got here and got everything out of my system, I’ve been fine.”
After watching his top player being put through his paces, Canada captain Martin Laurendeau also had no concerns.
“He’s looking good definitely,” Laurendeau said. “He was able to go home and regroup a little bit.
“But with everyone just arriving back in the city, we’re all in Davis Cup mode and all the memories and flashbacks are all coming alive now so everyone’s feeling good.”
The memories and flashbacks come from Canada’s stunning 3-2 first round win over Spain in Vancouver in early February, a result which secured the team’s passage to the World Group quarter-finals for the first time.
Meanwhile, Italy defeated Croatia by the same scoreline in Turin to keep alive its hopes of winning its first Davis Cup title since 1976.
The Italians boast two players inside the top-50 in Andreas Seppi (18) and Fabio Fognini (31) and Raonic expects the visitors to provide a tougher test than the depleted Spanish in the first round.
“I think it’s going to be more difficult,” the Thornhill, Ont. native said. “I think their guys are very talented, they’re capable of quite a bit and they play with a lot of pride so they’ll be eager to win.”
Laurendeau echoed Raonic’s thoughts about Italy and says the preparation will be no different to the previous round.
“They’re veterans, they’ve got a great captain (Corrado Barazzutti), a great team and as far as comparisons with Spain, I think they’re fairly similar teams,” he said.
“Against Croatia, they chose to play on indoor clay — that says a lot about their favourite surface — but if you look at their results on hard court and indoors, these guys they can handle their own definitely.
“The depth of the team is similar to Spain’s, so in our approach to this tie, we’re approaching it really kind of the same as we did against Spain.”
The tie in Vancouver will once again be played on the Premier hardcourt surface to allow Canada to capitalize on the speed it provides. Aside from the court, the familiarity with the city in general provides a big boost for Raonic and his teammates.
“We’ve played well here,” Raonic said. “I haven’t lost a singles match here, I’ve played well here. I’ve enjoyed it, the crowds have been amazing, the set-up is good, this arena is good and just the set-up we have in the city as well where we’re staying.
“We have some familiarity here now and it’s pretty easy to come back to.”
The theme of familiarity and comfort extends to the team itself, with Canada opting to retain the same squad that eliminated Spain.
Raonic will be joined by Niagara Falls, Ont. veteran Frank Dancevic — who turned the tie with Spain on its head after thrashing Marcel Granollers in the second rubber — as well as Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil and experienced doubles player Daniel Nestor, from Toronto.
“Everybody’s getting a little bit more used to the pressure and it just makes everything a little bit easier, less tense and so forth,” Raonic said of his team.
“I think everybody’s feeling comfortable in this situation, I think everybody has brought out good levels of tennis, if not their best tennis in this situation, so everybody is eager to come back and it’s good for all of us.”