VANCOUVER — Martin Laurendeau showed that loyalty plays a significant role when he assembles Canada’s Davis Cup team.
The Canadian team captain pulled a bit of a surprise Thursday at the official draw for this weekend’s World Group quarter-final against Italy, picking 22-year-old Vasek Pospisil to replace the injured Frank Dancevic on the singles roster.
Dancevic, of Niagara Falls, Ont., was a hero of the February World Group tie against Spain with his opening-day victory over top-50 singles player Marcel Granollers. He was a surprise scratch from the Canadian lineup Thursday with a sore left knee.
Laurendeau could be leaving himself open to some second-guessing by selecting Pospisil over Ottawa’s Jesse Levine, who is ranked 96th in the world — 44 places ahead of Pospisil.
But Pospisil has been a member of the Davis Cup squad since 2008 and has been an active team player the past three years. The veteran from Vancouver carries an overall record of 7-6 (4-4 in singles and 3-2 in doubles) into his eighth tie for Canada.
He was the hero of the 2011 victory over Israel which sent Canada in the World Group for the first time in eight years, winning all three of his matches including the decisive singles rubber.
Laurendeau didn’t directly address the loyalty issue, but he believes Pospisil is capable of pulling an upset against world No. 18 Andreas Seppi, a player he beat at last year’s Rogers Cup.
“It was a captain’s decision,” Laurendeau said. “We’ll just let Friday’s singles play themselves out and then we’ll look at the situation.”
Pospisil will need his youthful legs as he is also scheduled to team with veteran Daniel Nestor in Saturday’s doubles and to play in the reverse singles Sunday. Laurendeau, however, indicated he could revise his Sunday lineup.
Pospisil will kick off the tie Friday with his singles match against Seppi, followed by No. 16 Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., against No. 31 Fabio Fognini.
The injury to Dancevic means Levine, 26, will making his debut on the official team roster, though unless Laurendeau makes a change on Sunday it doesn’t appear he will see any action.
Levine left Canada at 13 to live with his family in Florida and originally represented the United States internationally, but has recently opted to play Davis Cup for his native country. He wasn’t eligible to play for Canada in the February tie against Spain but served as a practice player.
Dancevic said his knee problem only surfaced the past few days of practice.
“It just flared up in practice,” said the 28-year-old, currently ranked 198th in the world. “There’s some inflammation there under the kneecap. I took a cortisone shot to try and settle it down. It feels a bit better today, but I knew I wouldn’t be 100 per cent Friday.
“So yesterday I went to Marty and told him it might be better to play somebody else. This is the type of event where you have to be 100 per cent. It’s a team thing. It’s disappointing, sure. But I’ll be there cheering and I hope to be ready to play some more ties later this year.”
The Italians have injury issues of their own and it has resulted in them nominating Paolo Lorenzi and Daniele Bracciali to play Saturday’s doubles. It had been expected the Italian pairing would be Fognini and Simone Bolelli, who were having an outstanding season together after reaching the final of the Australian Open as well as winning a title in Buenos Aires.
But Bolelli injured a wrist in his second-round match at the recent Sony Open in Miami. He is with the team in Vancouver but has now been substituted for by Bracciali.
With half his ace doubles pairing on the shelf Italian captain Corrado Barazzutti opted for a completely new duo of Paolo Lorenzi and Bracciali.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Seppi in the doubles yet,” Nestor said Thursday.