Raonic faces Ramos in first match of Davis Cup tie
Canada's Milos Raonic prepares to serve during a team practice session at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, B.C., on Monday, Jan. 28, 2013. (The Canadian Press/Jonathan Hayward)
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, January 31, 2013 4:45PM EST
Last Updated Thursday, January 31, 2013 7:42PM EST
VANCOUVER -- A year later, Frank Dancevic knows for certain he will play a key role for Canada in a Davis Cup tie.
The 28-year-old from Niagara Falls, Ont., will take the court for two important singles matches in this weekend's first-round series against Spain, a year after he was an after-thought in Canada's tie against France last February.
"I love playing Davis Cup," Dancevic said as the draw was announced Thursday at the UBC venue where the best-of-five series will be held. "I've been part of the team for 10 years. It's an awesome feeling to win for your country."
Milos Raonic will kick off Canada's bid for a spot in the Davis Cup World Group quarter-finals.
Raonic, ranked No. 15 on the ATP Tour, will face No. 51 Albert Ramos in the first singles match when Canada's tie with Spain begins Friday.
The hard-serving 22-year-old from Thornhill, Ont., will also face Marcel Granollers in the fourth match on Sunday.
Dancevic, meanwhile, also singles matches against Granollers, Spain's top singles player for this event, on Friday, and Ramos in the final match Sunday.
Dancevic only played last year against France after Raonic was sidelined for his second singles match with a minor knee injury. But Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau is asking Dancevic to be a potentially decisive factor as Vancouver's Vasek Pospisil concentrates on doubles while recuperating from mononucleosis.
"Any time you play for your country, you feel pressure," said Dancevic. "You want to play well for your country, and you want to perform out there.
"I feel like I want to play well. I don't know if it's pressure. But I just want to go out there and give it all I've got and perform the best I can."
Dancevic, who lost to France's Jo-Wilfried Tsonga here last year in place of Raonic, will try to re-live some of the Davis Cup magic he displayed in 2003, when he beat Brazil's Flavio Sarretta in four sets in Calgary to return Canada to the World Group (top 16 countries) for the first time in a decade.
In recent years, Dancevic has struggled while competing mainly on the lower-tier Challenger Tour and attributed his troubles mainly to injuries.
"I believe that I belong in the top 100," said Dancevic, who is ranked 166th. "I'm confident that my game is there.
"I definitely need to get some good matches in to get there again. I'm not too far off from where I was."
Canada, which stands 12th in Davis Cup rankings, has never advanced beyond the first round. Spain, ranked No. 1, has won five Davis Cup titles, including three in the past five years, and reached the finals in 2012 before being upset by the Czech Republic.
But the opportunity for an upset is ripe. Spain will be without four of its highest-ranked players -- David Ferrer (fourth), Rafael Nadal (fifth), Nicolas Almagro (11th) and Fernando Verdasco (24th) -- this weekend.
While Nadal and Almagro will miss the tie through injury, Ferrer and Verdasco chose to rest.
If Raonic lives up to his ranking and wins both of his matches, and Spain's doubles squad lives up to its billing, the outcome could be decided in one of Dancevic's matches.
Doubles specialist Daniel Nestor of Toronto will team with Pospisil on Saturday to face Granollers and Marc Lopez. The Spanish duo won the 2012 ATP Tour's world doubles title and reached the Australia Open semifinals this year.
"We're going in there not favoured," said Nestor. "They're one of the best teams in the world right now."
The winner of the tie will advance to the quarter-finals, while the loser must play a World Group playoff in September to retain its spot in the top tier of Davis Cup play.
Laurendeau, who scouted the Spaniards during the Australian Open, says his team "really know how they play."
"We feel good about our week and our preparations and we're ready to go," said Laurendeau.
On the other hand, Spain's no-name team is out to prove itself. Davis Cup rookie Ramos knows that he will be in tough against Raonic.
"I will try to concentrate on every point and enjoy the moment," said Ramos.