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By Alberto Amalfi | @Tennis_Now | Tuesday, November 21, 2023

Milos Raonic helped put Canadian tennis on the map.

Prevailing in his first Davis Cup match in five years, Raonic did his part to try to keep defending champion Canada alive in the Davis Cup Finals.

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Raonic rocketed 18 aces, including opening and closing the match with aces, defeating Finland's Patrick Kaukovalta 6-3, 7-5 to stake Canada to a 1-0 lead in the Davis Cup quarterfinals in Malaga, Spain.

Finland's Otto Virtanen conquered Canada's Gabriel Diallo 6-4, 7-5 on the strength of 14 aces to level the tie and set up the decisive doubles match.

The winner of the Canada vs. Finland tie will advance to Friday's 4 p.m. semifinal against either Australia or Czech Republic.

Tennis Express

Once the stalwart of Canada's Davis Cup team, injuries riddled Raonic in recent years preventing him from playing.

The 32-year-old Raonic said his lengthy absence from Davis Cup competition makes this win even sweeter.

"It's a great feeling, great feeling especially considering the success that both the teams, men's and women's, have had this last 12 months," Raonic told the media in Malaga, Spain. "To be here alongside these guys, contributing and trying to just enjoy it, yeah, you know, you appreciate these moments a lot more once there is not as many of them."

In the last 12 months, Canada has captured both the Davis Cup and Billie Jean King Cup championships.

Earlier this month, former US Open finalist Leylah Fernandez clinched Canada's victory over Italy in the Billie Jean King Cup Finals to clinch its first King Cup championship in history. Raonic said he's watched Canada's rise with pride calling it "something pretty incredible."

"It's been a lot of pride and a lot of great feelings coming from it, just because, yeah, I remember from the first time that I was there as a hitting partner alongside the team in Calgary, I believe it was against Colombia back then," Raonic said. "I think we were playing to stay in Group I back then, America's Group I or whatever the structure is. Then in 2011 we had the chance to get into the World Group after first time in a long time.

"You know, there has been a whole lot of progress over the years with it, and we have been a staple now in the World Group's stage. We have been now at the top of it. So seeing all that, being a part of all that, it's something pretty incredible.

"I think it just speaks to a lot more because it's not the individual achievements Canadians have also had. I think it's significant about the process and the systems that are in place throughout the country that help Canadian tennis players that want to achieve their goals succeed."

Photo credit: International Tennis Federation