Canada's Davis Cup team is used to being pitted against higher-ranked foes. This time, extending its historic journey involves facing the world's No. 1 men's player, Novak Djokovic.
Canada and Serbia announced their squads Tuesday for the Davis Cup semi-final tie to be played in Belgrade later this month. It is likely to include the first meeting between Djokovic and Canada's top-ranked singles star, world No. 11 Milos Raonic.
The Canadian team also includes: world No. 40 Vasek Pospisil, doubles No. 15 Daniel Nestor, and No. 152 Frank Dancevic.
After upsetting Spain and Italy this year, Canada is playing in its first World Group semi-final, Sept. 13 to 15, indoors on clay. The winning team advances to the November final against the winner of a tie between Argentina and the Czech Republic.
Serbia is currently No. 3 on the ITF Davis Cup nations' ranking, while Canada sits at an all-time high of No. 7.
"As a group, we've gone through events and moments that have been pretty uplifting and it's been a year that we've done things we've never done before," Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau said. "It's very refreshing for our guys this late in the year to live a new experience and to carry on with the good feelings they've had this year from a lot of wins and improved rankings, and great team wins over Spain and Italy. We're really looking forward to the challenge and another chance to keep alive this great story we're going through."
Six-time Grand Slam-event winner Djokovic looks to lead Serbia to the final for the first time since it was the Davis Cup champion in 2010. The 26-year-old is 24-9 in Davis Cup singles matches in his career, 9-4 on clay.
Raonic, who cracked the top 10 for the first time this summer, after reaching his first ATP World Masters 1000 event final in Montreal, is on a 7-0 Davis Cup singles-win streak dating back to a 2012 tie against France. He is 12-4 over his career in Davis Cup, 2-2 on clay.
Raonic was eliminated from the U.S. Open by Richard Gasquet of France late Monday, but Djokovic is still in contention on the hard courts in New York, and could remain in action through the Sept. 9 final.
Others on the Serbian team are: world No. 21 Janko Tipsarevic, doubles No. 11 Nenad Zimonjic, and No. 144 Dusan Lajovic.
While Raonic is likely to be Canada's top singles entrant, Canada's second singles competitor is less certain. Dancevic played singles against Spain and upset Marcel Granollers, a key result in Canada's 3-2 victory. But Pospisil played singles against Italy and has often been a doubles partner for the veteran Nestor.
Pospisil has thrived in ATP singles play recently, beating two top-20 players during his run to the Rogers Cup semi-final last month.
Lineup decisions will be made after observing how the players adjust to clay in their week of preparations in Serbia, Laurendeau said.
Canada has played its last two ties on hard court in Vancouver, and must now adjust to the less-preferred clay.
"The Serbs have also been playing on hard courts since Wimbledon, so there's not much time to turn it around, so both teams will have their hands full," Laurendeau said. "We have to beat a really tough team, but we had better-ranked teams ahead of us when we took on Spain and Italy, and we did well.
"So we're going in with the same perspective: take one match at a time."