Davis Cup: Daniel Nestor withdraws from event with calf injury
Canadian team will also be minus Milos Raonic in Halifax
A lingering left calf injury has forced doubles star Daniel Nestor to skip this weekend's Davis Cup playoff in Halifax, putting Canada in an awkward spot as top player Milos Raonic has already bowed out of the tie.
Canada's more experienced team had the advantage going into the best-of-five playoff against Chile, but the loss of two of their strongest players has the young Chilean team musing about an upset.
"It was good news for us," Chile's Nicolas Jarry, ranked 484th in the world, told a news conference Tuesday when asked about Raonic's decision to stay on the sidelines.
"Now we have a lot more chances … Now we can play more even. It's going to be a better tie for everybody. More fair."
At that point in the day, the Chilean team had yet to learn about Nestor's fate, even though there was widespread speculation he would not play.
Raonic, ranked sixth in the world, pulled out as he continues to deal with cramping issues that hampered him at the U.S. Open.
I'd love to be able to compete, but I think we have a more-than-capable team.- Injured Canadian doubles star Daniel Nestor
Nestor currently holds the No. 12 position in the world doubles rankings. The 44-year-old said he pulled something in his calf before the U.S. Open, and he made the injury much worse by playing four games before withdrawing from the tournament in the first round on Sept. 1.
"I still wanted to come here and support the guys," Nestor said. "I'd love to be able to compete, but I think we have a more-than-capable team."
Canada is 12th in the Davis Cup rankings while Chile sits at No. 23. The two countries have split their eight previous Davis Cup meetings.
Canadian captain Martin Laurendeau made it clear he believes his team still has a clear advantage playing at home on an indoor hardcourt the team knows well.
"We have to think about what's ahead and not about which guy is missing … It's disappointing for Milos and Daniel not to play, but it's opportunities for others to step in and make the most of this chance to represent Canada — to step up and play big."
Vancouver's Vasek Pospisil, who will handle the top singles role, said he's ready to fill some big shoes.
"On paper, it might be more pressure, but in reality it doesn't really affect me much," he said. "If Milos was here, I would still have to face the same opponents … Putting more pressure on myself would not be a good thing."
Pospisil reached No. 25 in world singles rankings in early 2014 but has since slipped to No. 123.
Phenom Shapovalov ready
He will be joined by Frank Dancevic (No. 224) of Niagara Falls, Ont., 17-year-old phenom Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., and doubles specialist Adil Shamasdin of Toronto.
Shapovalov, currently fourth in the junior world rankings and the reigning junior Wimbledon champion, said he's ready for the competition.
"I think I'm handling it pretty fine," he said with poise when asked about the pressure of competing at such a young age. "I'm just excited to be here with these guys, with such an elite team. It's going to be a very fun week for me."
As for Shamasdin, he said he's ready for the tournament despite the short notice.
"For me, I've played in a tie already," he said. "I feel comfortable doing it again. I'm prepared."
Shamasdin's last played in the Davis Cup in July 2015 when he and Nestor lost a four-set decision to Belgium in a World Group doubles quarter-final.
In March, Canada dropped a 5-0 decision to France in first-round play. The team needs a victory to avoid being relegated to Americas Zone Group I for the first time in five years.
Chile is looking to qualify for the elite 16-team World Group for the first time since 2011.
Laurendeau said the crowd in Halifax will be a factor in the series.
"We're coming back to a place where the crowd has been really beneficial to our team," he said. "The home advantage is probably the biggest factor in Davis Cup."
Canada defeated Colombia 3-2 at the venue in September 2014.
The Chilean team also includes Gonzalo Lama (No. 172), Christian Garin (No. 275) and Hans Podlipnik-Castillo, who's ranked 65th in doubles. Two-time Olympic champion Nicolas Massu is team captain.
The tie starts Friday at Scotiabank Centre with two singles matches, followed by doubles on Saturday and reverse singles on Sunday.