Tennis Elbow: Around the world

February 4, 2013 · Print This Article

Welcome to the second season of Tennis Elbow. Once again in 2013, the column will look back on the week that was in the world of tennis. This week, Charles Blouin-Gascon recaps the first weekend of the 2013 Davis Cup season.

It’s an odd commercial.

In the days and weeks preceding the Davis Cup tie between Canada and Spain of this past weekend, Sportsnet had been running a commercial anticipating it. In it, Canadian star Milos Raonic is speaking. He’s explaining that he’s played tennis around the world, but that playing for his country is what brings him the greatest joy.

Hmm, perhaps, but I don’t buy it. I’ll get to that in a minute.

For now, let’s celebrate the fact that Canada recorded the biggest win of its history in international tennis by beating Spain 3-2 in the first round of the 2013 Davis Cup. It’s a tremendous achievement and, as a reward, the Canadian team will match up against Italy in the quarterfinals for the first time of its history.

Italy is certainly an opponent within reach for the Canadians, and a win would propel the country to the semifinal of the biggest international team tennis tournament in the world. It’s what every Canadian tennis fan has been waiting for, right?

It doesn’t matter that Canada beat a diminished Spain, who was without David Ferrer (ranked No. 4), Rafael Nadal (No. 5), Nicolas Almagro (No. 11) and Fernando Verdasco (No. 24). A win is a win is a win, as some might say. If Spain thought it could beat Canada in Canada without many of its top players, well, that’s why the five-time Davis Cup champions are leaving empty-handed. While Spain is the top country in men’s tennis, the team that competed against Canada was far from its A-Team–credit to Canada for taking full advantage of that.

The manner by which a win is secured doesn’t matter as much as the fact that the win, indeed, is secured. Is that strictly true  for a tournament like the Davis Cup? Not really, no–players, or teams, win titles, and very rarely do those titles come attached with an asterisk.

Canada’s win over Spain, and perhaps in April against Italy as well, is terrific for the sport of tennis. In this country, tennis remains relatively low on the sports food chain–probably below basketball, possibly baseball, and way, way, way lower than hockey. This win can only help the growth of this sport.

But is the win great for the individual? That’s more difficult to say.

In 2010, Novak Djokovic propelled Serbia to the Davis Cup title and then won 43 matches in a row. His 2011 season is quite possibly the finest season in the Open era, and he’s made no secret that the 2010 Davis Cup is what gave him the belief that he could beat anyone.

And yet, maybe a Davis Cup title doesn’t change much. Just ask Tomas Berdych, who so far in 2013 appears to be just as mercurial as he’s ever been despite guiding his Czech Republic to the 2012 Davis Cup title. (Admittedly, the 2013 season is still very young. But a quarterfinal loss, against Djokovic in the Australian Open, really is just par for the course with the 27-year-old.)

Just how much might this win change for Milos Raonic? Probably not much, especially if Canada loses next against Italy.

Playing for his country, in the Davis Cup, could very well be Raonic’s childhood dream, as he says in that Sportsnet commercial. He’s done that this early February, and he’ll get to do it again in April.

Yet, it’s by winning Grand Slam matches and tournaments around the world that he can become a real star. He’s currently ranked No. 15 in the ATP World Tour rankings. He’s right there on the cusp.

Go play around the world, Raonic.

Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @CeeeBG

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