SPORTS

Canada's Pospisil defeats Sela of Israel in opener of Davis Cup playoff series

09/16/2011 12:28 EDT | Updated 11/16/2011 05:12 EST
RAMAT HASHARON, Israel - It wasn't the result he was hoping for, but Milos Raonic is seeing the positives after his first competitive tennis match in three months.

Raonic was defeated by Amir Weintraub of Israel 5-7, 7-5, 6-3, 6-1 on Friday in the second singles game of Canada's World Group playoff Davis Cup series.

The Thornhill, Ont., native was playing his first match since injuring himself at Wimbledon. Plus, he's been battling food poisoning in Israel since Wednesday.

"If you look at the whole big picture of the last three months rather than the last four hours, everything's going tremendously well," said Raonic.

"I was able to play tired with three and a half hours with no hip issues, and that's a big plus. Obviously there was a lot of things that weren't that great about today, but I would say me and my team were happy with 80 per cent of everything."

The Canadian team (1-1) is especially happy with the way Vancouver's Vasek Pospisil played in his gruelling 7-6 (4), 6-7 (6), 6-1, 6-7 (2), 6-3 victory against Dudi Sela in Friday's singles opener.

Pospisil, ranked No. 124 in the world compared to No. 96 for Sela, the top-ranked player in Israel, prospered after a five-hour marathon, mostly under the sun.

Team captain Martin Laurendeau was impressed with Pospisil's gritty performance, but warned their plenty of tennis before Canada clinches a spot in the elite 16-country World Group for 2012.

"I'm glad that match was on TV," said Laurendeau. "He's on the rise. It was very high-level tennis and it was sustained for a very long time.

"It's great, but we're still one all and there's still a lot of tennis to be played."

The hard-serving Raonic looked strong early as he blazed two aces to win his first service game. He broke to go up 6-5 and serve out the set on a double set point with a sizzling forehand winner.

Weintraub played aggressively in the second set, attacking the net and breaking a sluggish-looking Raonic for a 3-1 lead when the Canadian netted his return.

Weintraub served to a 4-2 lead, but Raonic broke back with a bullet down the fault line, then served out a game to even the set. However, the Israeli held serve and broke Raonic on double set point to tie 1-1.

Raonic looked listless in the third set and was broken by Weintraub to fall behind 5-3. Weintraub easily won the second set capped by an emphatic ace.

Another break put Weintraub up 4-1 in the fourth and he breezed through two more games to close out the match.

Weintraub came into the match ranked 182nd compared to Raonic who is currently No. 31 in the world.

"Weintraub, I guess he was inspired, it was his birthday today," said Laurendeau. "He played with nothing to lose. He started off a bit tight and he got looser and looser and got more confidence as the match went on."

The 21-year-old Pospisil, meanwhile, was up 6-1 in the first-set tieberaker but Sela fought back before double-faulting.

The Israeli jumped into a 3-0 lead in the second but Pospisil fought back

Both players had problems with calls in the second set, with Sela throwing his racket to the ground and then going over to the umpire, climbing up the first few steps of the ladder to the raised chair to complain.

Pospisil would finish the match with 100 unforced errors compared to Sela's 85.

Sela survived two set points to win a second-set tiebreaker 8-6 and clawed back in the third from two games down to make it 4-4 after Pospisil double faulted on a double break point.

After Sela held serve to pull ahead 6-5, Pospisil forced a tiebreaker but fell back 6-0 before eventually losing and allowing Sela to even the match at two sets apiece.

Pospisil went up 4-2 in the final set as Sela hit a forehand long on a double break point.

With both players looking fatigued, Pospisil hit a blistering forehand to a win 40-15 point and pull within a game of winning the match.

Pospisil dropped to his knees after Sela hit the double match point long.

A win over Israel moves Canada into the elite World Group. The loser will remain in its zonal group for next year's competition.

Pospisil is scheduled to team with Toronto veteran Daniel Nestor against Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram in Saturday's double match at Canada Stadium in the suburb of Tel Aviv.

The tie concludes Sunday with Raonic versus Sela and Pospisil versus Weintraub.

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