They came, they saw, but they couldn't conquer.
With five championships, all of them since 2000, the powerful Spanish Davis Cup team isn't accustomed to losing anywhere, home or away.
But this past weekend the Spaniards, still rated the No. 1 Davis Cup team despite losing last year's final to the Czech Republic, ran into a perfect storm of adversity and were upset 3-2 by 12th-ranked Canada in first-round 2013 World Group play at University of British Columbia.
The question Spanish tennis fans are probably asking now is whether the shocking defeat is nothing more than a one-off fluke or whether it's the harbinger of a long-term slide in the world rankings.
The normally-dominant Spaniards were missing their top four singles players, Rafael Nadal, David Ferrer, Nicolas Almagro and Fernando Verdasco, to a combination of injury (Nadal and Almagro) and fatigue (Ferrer and Verdasco).
Nadal, whose ranking has slipped to No. 5 during his absence due to sickness and knee problems, is scheduled to return to tournament play this week in Chile.
After losing both the opening-day singles matches Friday, the Spaniards staved off elimination Saturday when the highly-ranked doubles team of Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez defeated the Canadian duo of veteran Daniel Nestor and youngster Vasek Pospisil in five sets. But by Canada taking the doubles to the maximum number of sets it prompted Spanish captain Alex Corretja to pull the higher-rated Granollers, No. 34 in the world, from Sunday's first reverse singles and substituting the No. 82-ranked Guillermo Garcia-Lopez.
It was a gamble that didn't pay off as Canada's No. 1 Milos Raonic, the world's No. 15-rated player, quickly disposed of his Spanish opponent in straight sets 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 to clinch the series victory.
Spanish left-hander Albert Ramos, who lost to Raonic on Friday, made the final tie score 3-2 when he defeated Frank Dancevic 7-5, 6-4 in what is known in Davis Cup parlance as a dead rubber. It was Dancevic, ranked 166th, who scored the biggest, and most improbable, win of the series Friday when his upset Granollers in straight sets.
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