Pospisil plays hero in Canada's Davis Cup win


Normally, Milos Raonic is the one bailing out Canada in the Davis Cup.

This time, it was hometown boy Vasek Pospisil’s chance to be the saviour.

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Pospisil, ranked 62nd in the world, pounded out 14 aces en route to a straight-set win over Japan’s Go Soeda to give Canada a 3-2 win in the Davis Cup World Group first-round tie before a boisterous crowd at Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre in Vancouver.

The 24-year-old from Vernon, B.C., downed No. 86 Soeda, a late replacement for Tatsuma Ito in the final rubber, 7-5, 6-3, 6-4 to put Canada into the quarterfinal round against Belgium later this spring. Japan beat Canada in the first round last year.

Earlier, Canada’s Milos Raonic dropped a five-set thriller to Japan’s Kei Nishikori in a battle of Davis Cup stalwarts. Nishikori knocked off Raonic 3-6, 6-3, 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 to knot the first-round tie at two matches apiece.

“The match played out as it did. It came down to one or two points, and that’s it,” the No. 6-ranked Raonic said of his loss to the No. 4-ranked Nishikori.

“It was going back and forth the entire match. I think between myself and him this is the (match) where probably there were the most momentum shifts.”

Raonic earned the only break of the first set en route to a 1-0 advantage. In the second set, Raonic was able to fight off two break points while down four games to three, but Nishikori converted a third opportunity and leveled things at one set apiece.

“I started a little bit shaky,” said Nishikori. “I was missing easy points and was making shots I wasn’t supposed to and he got a break easy. But second set I started to play well – a little more aggressive.”

Raonic was unable to capitalize on three break chances early in the third set, and Nishikori took advantage with a break of his own later on, grabbing a two sets-to-one lead.

The pro-Canadian crowd was quieted at that juncture, but Raonic brought them back to life early in the fourth set when Nishikori double-faulted on a break point to give the Canadian a 3-1 lead. Raonic had to fight off a break chance in the next service game to maintain the lead and force a fifth set.

After the players traded breaks in the fifth, Nishikori earned another break chance at 4-4 and Raonic double-faulted to go down 5-4. Nishikori then served out the final game handily to take the match, and even the tie at two rubbers each.

“Mentally, it was really tough,” Nishikori said of the back-and-forth final set. “I tried to say calm and stay tough. I was waiting for one chance; he gave me a double-fault.”

Nishikori now holds a 5-2 edge in the all-time meetings between the two players.

“I think it’s pretty much the same as every time,” Raonic said when asked to compare Sunday’s showdown with Nishikori to previous ones. “It’s very competitive, a big fight for the both of us, and comes down to a few moments here and there. You just try to fight it through and try to make the most of every opportunity.”