Even with big names missing, Ottawa tennis fans 'looking forward' to Davis Cup
'It's an amazing privilege for Ottawa to host such a big event'
Local tennis fans are disappointed that two of the top names in men's tennis won't be visiting the capital this weekend for the Davis Cup but remaining positive about the prestigious tournament.
Canada's Milos Raonic and Britain's Andy Murray will not compete for their respective national teams during the tennis tournament in Ottawa.
Paul Henry, a long-time tennis player in Ottawa, was at the Rideau Tennis Club for a weekly game with friends Gord Marinic and Ron Kunstadt.
"I'm sad that Murray can't play, and Raonic can't play," Henry said.
"But I'm looking forward to some good matches because you've got lots of good players. It's a team sport, after all. A lot is made of it being an individual sport these days. Doubles never used to get a lot of attention in the tournaments, now you've got a chance to watch that live."
Gord Marinic said some friends cancelled plans to come to Ottawa from Toronto after learning Raonic would not play.
"We'll be there, anyway, to cheer on our guys," Marinic said.
'We had to fill a big hole'
Last Tuesday, Great Britain and Canada announced their respective teams for the matchup from Feb. 3 to 5 at TD Place Arena.
On Friday, in a statement by Tennis Canada, Raonic said an adductor injury would prevent him from playing for a few weeks and that he was "sad and disappointed" to be missing the Davis Cup.
At a news conference, Peter Polansky, most recently ranked 132nd in the world and named as Raonic's replacement, said he was glad for the opportunity to play.
"I think if you're asked to play for your country, you do it," Polansky said. "For someone who doesn't get an opportunity to play on the team a whole lot, it was a no-brainer."
Martin Laurendeau, coach and captain of the Canadian Davis Cup team, called Polansky a fitting replacement for Raonic.
"We had to fill a big hole, when you replace the number three in the world. Peter was aware that could happen, depending on what happened. He was standing by, now he's part of the team."
'Privilege' to host Davis Cup
The long-time player and vice-president of Kunstadt Sports said the two high-profile withdrawals from the Davis Cup shouldn't cause Ottawa fans to ignore the tournament.
"It's an amazing privilege for Ottawa to host such a big event with the newly-renovated Lansdowne Park. The Davis Cup coming to Ottawa is once every 20 years," Kunstadt said.
Missing out on the stars is "disappointing" but there is an upside, he said.
"The positive is it gives Denis Shapovalov, who's the Wimbledon junior champ, a chance to play."
Canada team member Vasek Pospisil joked about making the adjustment to Ottawa winter after a week in Australia for the Australian Open, where temperatures hovered around 40 C.
"I think we're definitely hoping to be more comfortable than the Brits here. I'm pretty sure the weather is uncomfortable for everybody, but hopefully more uncomfortable for them."