TORONTO: Canada raced to a 2-0 lead over Spain in their Davis Cup world group first round tie on Friday, pushing the five-times champions to the brink of defeat and moving to within a doubles victory of a maiden win at this level.
With top-ranked Spain missing big guns Rafa Nadal, David Ferrer and Nicolas Almagro, the Canadians seized their chance when Milos Raonic and Frank Dancevic dominated the clay-loving Iberians on the lightning fast Vancouver hardcourts.
Raonic, the world number 15, delivered as expected to tame feisty Alberto Ramos 6-7 6-4 6-4 6-4 before Frank Dancevic, ranked 161, destroyed world number 34 Marcel Granollers 6-1 6-2 6-2.
Spain looked determined to make it a difficult day for Canada when Ramos, making his Davis Cup debut, fought off three break points on his opening serve then forced the first set tie-break, which he won 7-5 when rattled Raonic sent his forehand long.
There would be few other miscues, though, as Raonic broke Ramos to open the second set and then collected the decisive break at 4-4 in third on his way to a 2-1 lead.
At 4-4 in the fourth, Raonic broke Ramos again before serving out the match with two thundering aces.
"It wasn't always the prettiest but thankfully I'm through." Raonic told courtside television as the celebration erupted around him. "I just put everything aside and focused on winning.
"I was hoping to turn the match in the first set, I had three early chances on his serve, three forehands into the net, I couldn't change it around there.
"But as soon as I got that first break right away in the second it let me play a little more freely."
Dancevic, still chasing his first career ATP Tour title, dropped to his knees and clenched his fists to celebrate the biggest win of his career when a Granollers return hit the net.
"I think I played the match of my life today," said the 28-year-old.
"I just went in with a lot confidence, like just had to go all or nothing today. Anytime I had an opportunity I went for it.
"This isn't over yet. We've to go strong, these guys aren't finished yet, they're going to come strong tomorrow.
"They've got a great doubles team ... we just have to go hard until the last ball this weekend."
Granollers will team up with Marc Lopez to take on Canada's Daniel Nestor and Vasek Pospisil in a must win doubles match on Saturday if they are to keep alive their hopes of advancing to the quarter-finals.
Spain have not crashed out in the first round since 2006, when they fell 4-1 to Belarus.