By Dominique Cambron-Goulet
(August 9, 2013) MONTREAL – Friday afternoon featured two Canadian blockbusters at Montreal ATP Maters 1000. Vasek Pospisil [W] was lucky in the first match of the day as former top-3 Nikolay Davydenko retired after losing the first three games of the match, due to bronchitis symptoms. In the second quarterfinal, Ernests Gulbis was unable to complete the comeback in a big-servers fight against Milos Raonic  7-6 (3), 4-6, 6-4.
The first set was a server’s duel. No break points were given until the last game of the set. Raonic saved both of them to force Gulbis into the tiebreak. The Canadian was really strong in the ultimate game and took advantage of Gulbis’ errors to lead 4-0. The Latvian got frustrated and broke his racquet. That gave the mental upper hand to the 13th ranked player, who would conclude the set with a second-serve ace 7-6 (3).
Gulbis bounced back in the second stretch. He opened up with a break on one of Raonic’s 8 double-faults. The 38th ranked player gave no opportunities to his opponent while serving. Raonic only won three points on returns in the first nine games. Although Ernests Gulbis had some problems serving for the set with two double-faults, he saved two break points to take away the second set 6-4.
The third set was a mental challenge for both players. Starting with a really long first game with five deuces, Raonic was able to hold his serve. In the fourth game, the crowd and a missed challenge disturbed Gulbis. He double-faulted four times to literally give the lead 3-1 to the Canadian. “It’s okay people are rough, they’re used to hockey here, joked Gulbis after the match. But, honestly, I don’t understand why people need to clap for a double‑fault. I think it’s stupid.”
However, the Latvian came back right away, winning Raonic’s serve to love. In the last games, we could feel each point was mentally hard for the players. Raonic benefited of the advantage of serving first and was able to break in the tenth game to complete Canada’s dream tournament and lift the crowd. After the match, Raonic explained how he managed to keep his cool in crucial moments. “In important points I focused on taking a little bit more time. I’ve decided to focus in on the serve, knowing that’s the best way I can win points.”
The last Canadian reach the semi-finals in Montreal was Mike Belkin in 1969. It’s useless to say that two Canadians in semis, is far from the biggest expectations of Tennis Canada. The big question is: Who will get crowd’s support in this match? “I’m sure the crowd is gonna be pretty fair cheering for both of us, but if someone has more support I hope it’s me”, joked Vasek Pospisil in press conference answering the question.
In four pro meetings (none ATP) between the two Canadians, Vasek Pospisil has a winning record of 3-1 against Milos Raonic. All the matches occurred in ‘09 and ‘10 and Raonic triumphed in the last one at Lexington Challenger in July 2010. They were ranked 311th (Pospisil) and 267th (Raonic) at that time.
Dominique Cambron-Goulet has been teaching tennis for ten years and is now a journalist in Montreal. Follow his reports all week from Rogers Cup here and live on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.