VANCOUVER - Milos Raonic gave Canada an early lead Friday in a Davis Cup tie with Spain.
Raonic overcame a one-set deficit to beat Albert Ramos 6-7, 6-4, 6-4, 6-4 in the opening match at UBC's Thunderbird Sports Centre. The Canadian offered hope of a major upset as play began.
Spain, ranked No. 1 in the world, is a five-time Davis Cup champion and reached the finals last year before being upset by the Czech Republic. Canada, meanwhile, has never advanced beyond the first round of World Group play, which is open to the top 16 countries.
Frank Dancevic of Niagara Falls, Ont., met Marcel Granollers in a later match.
Raonic, ranked 15th in the world, entered the match as the clear favourite. Ramos, ranked 51st, and listed as Spain's No. 2 singles player for this event, was playing his first-ever Davis Cup match.
But the Canadian star struggled early, hitting the net several times on what appeared to be routine forehand shots. Raonic held a 5-3 lead in the first-set tiebreaker, but missed while attempting to return a long Ramos shot to go down 6-5 and then hit a shot long to give the Spaniard the opening set.
Ramos battled his way through the middle sets to go up 2-1, but found himself trailing 3-2 in games in the fourth set before forging a 3-3 tie. But Ramos took a 4-3 lead, forcing Raonic to battle his way back yet again.
Raonic took the next game on a service winner and then broke Ramos for the third time to go up 5-4. The final game was close again, but holding a precarious 40-30 lead, Raonic took the match with an ace.
He finished with 26 aces on the day, while Ramos recorded 13. However, the Spaniard never managed to break the Canadian's serve over the course of 43 games.
Spain is playing without four of its highest-ranked players — David Ferrer (fourth), Rafael Nadal (fifth), Nicolas Almagro (11th) and Fernando Verdasco (24th) — this weekend.
While Nadal and Almagro are recovering from injuries, Ferrer and Verdasco chose to rest.