Milos Raonic, Canada eye top-ranked Spain in Davis Cup tie

Milos Raonic felt after his defeat to Roger Federer at the Australian Open last week that some relaxation time was in order. And off to Whistler he went.

So, in some ways, it was like an extended stay Down Under.

Rest and recreation time is now over. Raonic arrived in Vancouver Saturday.

He will be counted upon by the fans and media to be Canada’s star performer against Spain in the Davis Cup World Group first-round tie, which goes Friday to Sunday at UBC’s Doug Mitchell Thunderbird Sports Centre.

The winner moves on to the Davis Cup quarter-finals in April.

Canada’s roster also includes Frank Dancevic, 40-year-old and 80-time doubles champion Daniel Nestor, and Vancouver’s own Vasek Pospisil.

Of the four, only the 22-year-old Raonic is ranked among the top 100 men’s single tennis players in the world. He currently sits 15th.

The external pressure rests mostly on his shoulders.

“It is in a sense but at the same time it’s a team event,” Raonic told reporters at UBC Monday when asked if this is his squad to lead. “But you step out there and you play your match.

"So you’ve just got to focus on yourself…and hopefully I’m playing really well. That helps. If not, I’m going to be giving it everything that I’ve got to win. Hopefully that just carries on and I think the team has that same type of mentality and approach.”

Raonic is coming off a three-set loss to Federer in the fourth round of the Australian Open, tennis’ first Grand Slam event of the year.

Raonic had been dealing with a left foot injury - diagnosed as inflammation in the joints of the foot - while in Melbourne and was only given medical clearance to play Federer less than an hour before the match was scheduled to take place.

“Perfect. No problems,” he said of his health after Monday's practice on the hard court at UBC.

Canada comes into this competition 12th in the Davis Cup nations rankings.

Spain sits at the top, despite losing to the Czech Republic in the 2012 final, and is a five-time champion.

However, the Spanish will be without their top three players - David Ferrer, Rafael Nadal and, most recently Nicolas Almagro due to a reported leg injury.

Raonic doesn’t believe it to be a sign of disrespect or that Spain is taking Canada lightly. And team captain Martin Laurendeau said he wouldn't speculate as to the absence of those three opposing players.

“We’ve got to take it as is,” said Laurendeau.

“I’m not in the position to diminish their team because…their players are great players. When you look at their rankings, they’re ranked ahead of us, they have a lot of experiences themselves, a great captain, and these guys are all about winning.”

More on