Vancouver, April 3 (IANS) A relaxed yet confident Italian team is seeking to advance to its first Davis Cup semi-final since 1998 but it isn't looking past upstart Canada, which it will meet in a quarter-final tie starting Friday in the British Columbia city.
"Canada is a very good team. (Milos) Raonic is an improved player. I think that he can always play better so he is really good. So I think it is normal that they have made the quarterfinal," Italian captain Corrado Barazzuti told the media Tuesday at the University of British Columbia campus.
"It's true that they played against Spain without maybe their best player, but Canada is still a really good team."
The 60-year-old Barazzuti knows what it takes to win as he played on the 1976 Italian team that won the country's only Davis Cup when it beat Chile. Over the years Italy, currently ranked ninth in the world, has lost six Davis Cup finals, but this year it goes into the quarter-finals with a strong team that got by Croatia 3-2 in early February, reports Xinhua.
The Italian arsenal includes world No.20 singles player Andreas Seppi, Fabio Fognini (33), Paolo Lorenzi (40), Simone Bolelli (86) and Daniele Bracciali, currently ranked 25th in doubles.
Seppi, who won twice on the ATP Tour in 2012 and got to the fourth round of this year's Australian Open, felt he was at the top of his game. Both his victories in Germany and Italy came on hard courts, the same surface at the UBC Thunderbird Sports Center.
"For sure, I have a little bit more experience than before. I played a lot of tough matches, feeling better on the court, and changed a little bit of my preparation also," said the 29-year-old Seppi who went 1-1 in the Croatia tie.
"So I think maybe these are the two important things, a little bit more experience, moving better on the court."
Experience is what it's all about for No.8 ranked Canada as the team is in the quarterfinals for the first time after advancing following a 3-2 upset of No.1 ranked Spain, a team that was missing superstar Rafael Nadal and world No.4 David Ferrer.
Canada captain Martin Laurendeau will field the same team that beat the Spaniards in world No.15 singles player Raonic, 40-year-old doubles specialist Daniel Nestor, Frank Dancevic and Vasek Pospil.
"They're fairly comparable lineups. They have a player in the top 20, they have a really good doubles team and they have good depth. Obviously they can play on hard courts, they've shown that before," said Laurendeau, noting his team had come through many difficult situations to get to this position.
Canada will rely heavily on Raonic, the top-ranked player in the field who pulled out of last week's Sony Open in Miami citing strep throat.
The big-serving 196-cm Ontario native is 3-0 on the medium-fast surface at UBC dating back to last year's Davis Cup tie when France beat Canada. This year, Raonic won his third straight title in San Jose and made it to the fourth round of the Australian Open before getting knocked out by Roger Federer.
"Everything is going well. I've had an opportunity in some tournaments. I've played well in some tournaments. I think I'm just getting better. I enjoy playing under these circumstances with the environment as well as it being a Davis Cup tie so I look forward to it," Raonic said.