Milos Raonic is denying suggestions that powerhouse Spain is not showing his team enough respect ahead of their Davis Cup World Group first-round tie this weekend.
Canada’s top-ranked tennis player says Spain would have rested its top players regardless of the opponent.
Spain will be without four of their highest-ranked players — David Ferrer (fourth), Rafael Nadal (fifth), Nicolas Almagro (11th) and Fernando Verdasco (24th) — for the tie this weekend at the University of British Columbia.
While Nadal and Almagro will miss the tie in Vancouver through injury, Ferrer and Verdasco chose to miss the series in order to rest.
“They’ve won the title three times (in the past five years),” said the 15th-ranked Raonic, who was beaten by Roger Federer in the fourth round of the Australian Open. “It’s not just for this tie, they’ve made it clear that they are resting from Davis Cup because they’ve brought three titles home.
“It’s just a general thing that they’ve decided. You can ask the captain of their team, you can ask whoever you want, I think there is quite a bit of respect around the tour for us.”
Aside from the 22-year-old Raonic, Canada will be comprised of Vancouver’s Vasek Posposil as well as Davis Cup veterans Frank Dancevic of Niagara Falls, Ont., and Toronto’s Daniel Nestor.
Spain, last year’s runner-up, will be represented by Davis Cup debutants Albert Ramos (ranked 51st) and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (82nd) and doubles partners Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez.
While it will be a relatively weakened Spanish outfit, Raonic, from Thornhill, Ont., is not expecting the tie to be easy.
“It’s still going to be very difficult,” he said, adding he was healthy after a foot injury plagued him in Melbourne. “I think you look at the guys they brought, they are still all experienced guys, they know how to play in this situation and Spain is a country that knows how to win in the Davis Cup, so it’s still a very tough situation.”
Although Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau acknowledged there was an opportunity for his team to capitalize on its weakened opposition, he was still wary of the danger the five-time champions posed.
“Spain has a tremendous team and they have incredible depth,” he said. “We’re not going to approach this tie about who’s not playing, it’s about who we are going to face.
“All their guys are top-100 fierce competitors, warriors, and they know how to win. We’ll have our hands full with the team that they sent, so our focus is going to be on training according to who we’re going to match up against, make sure we’re healthy and make sure we do the things we can.
“But there’s still a good feeling to play at home instead of in Spain.”
Laurendeau feels his team has shown plenty of improvement since the 4-1 first round defeat at the hands of France in Vancouver last February.
“We’ve gotten better all around,” he said. “Last year against France we had two of the youngest singles players (Raonic and Pospisil) in the World Group and now they have one extra year under their belt.
“The more you’re thrown in these circumstances, the better you can handle them. As a team we still have a very good team, good depth, good team chemistry and we feel good about this run we’re having about playing at home. We went through a few years playing away a lot and now we’ve got to make the most of (the home advantage).”
Added Raonic: “I think we’re getting better as a team. We’re getting stronger, people individually are improving and as a team we’re improving. Our chemistry is a lot better, team dynamics are a lot better and it’s all more enjoyable for us.”
Despite boasting the likes of Ferrer and Almagro, Spain fell 3-2 to the Czech Republic in the 2012 Davis Cup Final in Prague in November.