Everything (well, almost everything) fell into place for Canada in 2013 during the team’s run to the Davis Cup. It was an unprecedented performance in uncharted territory. Canada had been to the semifinals of the Davis Cup only twice before (in 1913 and 1920, then when the competition was much less fierce). In 2013, it is safe to say that Canada surprised many by ultimately becoming one of the top four men’s tennis teams in the world.
The Davis Cup is the ultimate men’s team tennis competition in the world, beginning in 1900. For over 70 years, the US, Britain, Australia and France dominated the competition. Canada’s only significant appearance during this time was in 1913 when they actually made it to the final, defeated by the US. It wasn’t until 1991 that Canada re-emerged from the tennis wilderness to compete in the re-organized World Group. By then, tennis had truly become an international sport with European countries dominating the sport. Although Canada played in the World Group twice again (1992 and 2004), they were win less in their ties.
Since then, the transformation that Tennis Canada has undertaken to change the image of Canadian tennis and the success of Canadian tennis players has begun to show dividends. Strictly discussing Davis Cup, Canada toiled in the trenches of zonal play for decades which makes this recent success much more satisfying. Hard work, dedication, spirit and heart were the key ingredients. Even though Canada made it to the World Group in 1991, 1992 and 2004, there was no momentum following these victories and they fell further in zonal play. Almost hitting rock bottom coincided with a surge in player development by 2010, which led to Canada’s current success.
Although Milos Raonic has been seen as the public figure that has propelled Canada to these new heights, there are a few more public people that deserve just as much credit. Vasek Pospisil has been the new workhorse for this Canadian team. He has immense potential and one day (with the right guidance) may surpass Raonic in the rankings. He has all the tools and talent to get where he wants to go. Raonic has been the fire starter of this new team. He was the one who got the ball rolling and everyone else got behind him because of that confidence.
Daniel Nestor is simply a tennis legend. For over 20 years, he has kept Canada alive on the world stage in every capacity possible – Olympics, Davis Cup, the Grand Slam, the ATP Tour. He is one of the most underrated Canadian athletes of all-time. Frank Dancevic also deserves huge praise for coming through with clutch victories when Canada desperately needed them. His match vs. Spain in the first round of singles this year was unbelievable. One can only imagine where his career could have been in the stratosphere had it not been for multiple injuries throughout his career.
Canada is a great team and deserves to be where it is – now firmly entrenched in the upper echelon of world tennis. It is true that the team caught a break when Nadal and Ferrer chose not to play for Spain in Vancouver. That’s tennis. You get breaks, you get lucky. You also have to rely on your talent and not on the breaks – that is what Canada did in 2013. The talent came through in every possible way: Raonic playing like a winner; Pospisil coming through in singles and doubles; Nestor being the legend that he is; and Dancevic playing like a man possessed because he knew he had it in him. Confidence. It’s huge in professional sports. Canada now has huge confidence and the belief that they can play and outplay anyone. It’s going to be an exciting next few years for Canada’s Davis Cup team.
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