Raonic helps Canada reach maiden Davis Cup semis

Vancouver, April 8 (IANS) Canada advanced to the Davis Cup semifinals for the first time Sunday when Milos Raonic beat Italy’s Andreas Seppi 6-4, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 to win the World Group tie 3-1.

The upstart Canadians, who upset top-ranked Spain in February, will now meet Serbia in the next round in September. World No. 1 Novak Djokovic beat Sam Querrey in four sets to give the visiting Serbians a 3-1 victory over USA Sunday in Boise, Idaho, Xinhua reports.

Seppi, the world No. 18 singles player, faced a difficult task from the start as the big-hitting Raonic broke the Italian’s serve in the very first game to take control. With his powerful serves that regularly topped 200 kmph and excellent cross-court returns, the world No. 16 broke Seppi’s serve three times in the tie that lasted nearly 2.5 hours.

“He (Seppi) had to play really well in that first set. I didn’t really make too many mistakes. Three of his five service games I had break chances,” said the 22-year-old Raonic, who added he felt he wasn’t completely outplayed in the third set.

“I felt I had my opportunities. He (Seppi) converted better than I did. He had way fewer games for chances. That’s just what it came down to. It’s unfortunate that that set got away, but I just kept plugging away.”

After going down two sets, Seppi rallied in the third breaking Raonic’s serve in the second game to easily win the set. However, Raonic’s serve on the medium-hard surface largely proved the difference overall as the Canadian served 35 aces to Seppi’s 11.

“Raonic is one of the biggest servers on the tour, but in a (ATP) tournament you never play on a surface like that. So for sure you get more chances to return, to let him play and it’s completely different,” the 29-year-old Seppi said.

“This was almost like playing on ice so it’s very difficult to find a rhythm. From the baseline he was going for his shots, so it’s, you know, very difficult.”

With just over 15,000 fans attending the three days of the Davis Cup tie, Raonic felt the noisy pro-Canada crowd was very much a factor in the outcome.

“It just elevates you in the tougher moments, tougher situations. I think, I noticed how much of a difference it makes for me, so I think that’s one reason why I was pushing so hard for a few games there yesterday to really get everybody into it,” he said.

The semifinal for Canada will take place in Belegrade, Serbia, just after the final Grand Slam of the year, the U.S. Open in New York, making it a difficult travel schedule for all the players involved.

“It’s always a challenge after the U.S. Open to have everybody 100 percent (healthy). It’s a hard season, the hard courts in the middle (of the season), the clay before that, and the long European stretch,” said Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau.

“But that’s always a challenge for everybody, for any nation. After New York you kind of want to take a bit of a breather. But for us, this is all new territory and we got to plan around it and go along with it and do our best.”

In other Davis Cup ties Sunday, Argentina beat France 3-2 and will now face the Czech Republic, who beat Kazakhstan 3-1.

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