2014/04/24

Pospisil Fights off Groth and Aussie Crowd for First Round Win

Pospisil

By Alana Mitchelson

(January 13, 2014)  MELBOURNE -Vasek Pospisil has cruised past Sam Groth in straight sets, 6-4 6-3 6-4, to secure a second round match with Australia’s Matt Ebden.

The Canadian did not allow the keen Aussie fan team, complete with bright green and gold attire and sombreros, or the supportive songs they chanted distract him from carrying out his mission at Melbourne Park on Monday.

While Groth was not afraid to incorporate many a serve and volley point into his game, his commitment to approaching the net did not always carry his service and inconsistent shot placement led to the Australian only winning about half of the volley points he attempted.

Meanwhile, Pospisil maintained his exceptional sideline hitting and with such accuracy that Groth was at times so confident as to abandon the lob entirely, only to turn around in sheer horror as he watched the ball clip the chalk time after time.

A refreshing cool breeze settled in at around 6pm, but even the cooler conditions did not help Groth as he failed to claim a single break on the Canadian throughout the whole match.

Groth, who currently holds the record for the fastest serve at a rifling 263 km/hr, hit as many as 16 aces throughout the match, but Pospisil executed confident and precise returns on most occasions. He even served out some aces of his own and exhibited some truly elegant net play which made for entertaining tennis for the crowd to experience.

Given Pospisil had recently experienced back problems, which forced him to an unfortunate withdrawal during a semifinal in Chennai earlier this month, the 24-year-old was surprised at how well he had performed on court.

“I wasn’t actually expecting to play like that given I wasn’t feeling 100 per cent and I didn’t really have very good preparation,” Pospisil admitted.

While his second round opponent, Matt Ebden, played a fairly gruelling five setter in peak heat on Monday, Pospisil did not feel as though he had any kind of advantage with having enjoyed a more relaxed first round match.

“We have a day off tomorrow… he’s a really fit guy so I don’t think he’ll be too tired. But it’s better for me that I didn’t have to play five sets, that’s for sure.”

Watching Milos Raonic break into the top 10 has been particularly inspiring for him as a Canadian player and the 24-year-old is always looking to improve his game.

Alana Mitchelson is a Melbourne-based freelance journalist covering the Australian Open for Tennis Panorama News. Follow her tournament updates on Twitter @TennisNewsTPN and read her personal website http://alanamitchelson.wordpress.com

 

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Perfect Scenario for Rogers Cup Final Weekend in Montreal

Nadal wins

By Charles David Mathieu-Poulin

(August 10, 2013) MONTREAL – The Montreal fans are particularly fond of two things, tennis-wise: big charismatic stars exuding passion and local players battling it out like there is no tomorrow. Therefore, no one could have set up a better scenario than the semifinals played in Montreal on Saturday. And the matches delivered, both ending in third set tie-breaks.

While the Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic showdown wasn’t a surprise and was actually expected and hoped for when the draw came out, the Milos Raonic-Vasek Pospisil match revived the patriotic flame of many: it was the first time since 1969 that a Canadian reached this stage and the winner would be the first Canadian finalist since 1958!

The two Davis Cup teammates were the first to hit the court in the afternoon, under perfect weather for tennis: sunny, breezy and a touch chilly. The atmosphere was just as perfect, with a packed crowd of over 12,000 anxious fans, hesitant about for whom to cheer for as if they were asked to choose between their (tennis) children.

Milos Raonic was the favorite on paper, but was also the one with all the pressure and it showed in his on-court manners: while he was stone-faced and focused, Pospisil was vocal and animated and clearly had nothing to lose in this encounter.

As it often happens when two players that know each other well face off, the level of play wasn’t spectacular. Both players seemed nervous from the get-go, and most points were decided either on unreturned serves or unforced errors. Raonic was the first one to draw blood and break, and he rode the way until finishing up the forgettable 6-4 set on an ace.

Raonic 88

The second set followed a totally different route: Pospisil started receiving better and being more aggressive, and Raonic seemed lost in his defensive role. While the underdog was getting pumped up, the 11th seed seemed frustrated and about to give up the set. Breaking twice, Pospisil leveled things off, wining the second set 6-1.

Raonic then retreated to the locker rooms, in the hopes of breaking the rhythm and changing the momentum. He later admitted in his post-match interview that he ‘yelled at [himself] to let the anger out, but not too loud as there was someone else in the bathroom’.

The third set saw some better play and built up quite the drama. While Pospisil got closer in more of Raonic’s serve game, the favorite never got broken and led in the score all set, as he was serving first. Vasek was solid serving under pressure, bringing the set to a tiebreak. Raonic stormed to an early lead with two mini-breaks, but Pospisil immediately erased them with inspired play. Clearly nervous, the serve speeds started dropping, especially on Raonic’s side, but he remained more solid off the ground and closed out the set, reaching his first ever Masters 1000 final and entering the top 10 for the first time of his career. He becomes the first ever Canadian male player to achieve that feat, a fact that made him quite emotional after the match.

His final opponent was also decided in a nail-biter under the lights. Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic had played 35 times in the past, and their match-up always leads to spectacular rallies and intense battles. While Nadal was coming into this match undefeated on hardcourts in 2013, Djokovic had won all their encounters on this surface since 2010.

Nadal stormed off to a two break lead, as his consistency was too much for the Serb. Djokovic started finding his range late in the set, erasing one of the breaks, but it was too little too late as the 4th seed won the first 6-4.

The second set started with close games and intense rallies, and the drama peaked with an umpiring mistake. With Djokovic serving at 5-3, when Nadal challenged a call and was right, the score was announced wrong. While both players and the umpire agreed that it was 30-all, the scoreboard mentioned 40-15, and the crowd was raucous towards the mistake. The chair umpire, remaining silent, lost control over the crowd, which seemed to affect Djokovic who lost the following (very important) point. But when he saved it and then leveled off the match, we knew we would be treated to a dramatic third set.

Following a similar pattern than the first semifinal, both players, who had been broken two times each until then, managed to hold until a third set tiebreak. The stand-out moment happened in the middle of the set when Nadal hit a backhand pass directly at Novak in a heated net exchange: when the Spaniard tried to apologize, Novak looked away in frustration, adding to the already high tension.

The tiebreak proved to be quite an anticlimactic end to a fantastic match. Despite losing the last game to love, the Spaniard played inspired tennis, enjoyed a few loose points from the first seed, and rapidly built a huge 6-0 lead. While Djokovic saved the first two on impressive winners, he hit a ball just long on the third match point, handing Nadal his 21st win against the Serb.

Nadal will be looking to win his third Rogers Cup in Sunday’s final against Raonic. The crowd is expected to be strongly behind the Canadian, especially as, for the first time, fans will be able to get in the Uniprix Stadium grounds to watch the final on a big-screen, Henman Hill-style. It will be a fitting end to one of the best ever editions of the Rogers Cup in Montreal.

Charles David Mathieu-Poulin blogs for WtaQuebec www.wtaquebec.com, a website promoting local Quebec players. He is covering the Rogers Cup in Montreal for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on twitter @earthstroke, follow his Montreal coverage on @TennnisNewsTPN.
RESULTS – SATURDAY, 10 AUGUST 2013

Singles – Semi-finals
[4] R Nadal (ESP) d [1] N Djokovic (SRB) 64 36 76(2)
[11] M Raonic (CAN) d [WC] V Pospisil (CAN) 64 16 76(4)

Doubles – Semi-finals
[3] A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA) d M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) 62 76(3)
C Fleming (GBR) / A Murray (GBR) d [6] R Lindstedt (SWE) / D Nestor (CAN) 63 60

SCHEDULE – SUNDAY, 11 AUGUST 2013

CENTRAL start 12:30
C Fleming (GBR) / A Murray (GBR) vs [3] A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA)

Not Before 15:00
[4] R Nadal (ESP) vs [11] M Raonic (CAN)

 

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Rough Day Session for the Seeds in Montreal

Pospisil 882013

Vasek Pospisil

By Dominique Cambron-Goulet

(August 8) MONTREAL – After the No. 3 player in the world, David Ferrer [3], lost last night 6-2, 6-4 against qualifier Alez Bogomolov Jr., two more seeds Andy Murray [2] and Tomas Berdych [5] lost on Thursday at the Montreal ATP Masters 1000.

Ernests Gulbis

Ernests Gulbis

Murray’s upset came in straight sets against Ernest Gulbis 6-4, 6-3. Murray was broken in the 10th game leaving his opponent with the first set in hand. In the second set, Gulbis broke early and had a 3-0 lead. Murray made the fans believe in a comeback at 3-3, but fell short, losing three straight games. Gulbis said after the match that even if it was a big win, it’s better to keep your expectations really low to stay focused. “You have a good result, you build up a living basically for a couple days in your own dream world. Suddenly it breaks and you’re without confidence. There is no need for that.”

 

Tomas Berdych

Tomas Berdych

Berdych’s upset is on the other hand the story of the day. Canadian Vasek Pospisil continues his great journey through the main draw after ousting John Isner and Radek Stepanek. The winner of the Vancouver ATP 100 tournament just last week relied on his serve (20 aces) to win in three sets 7-5, 2-6, 7-6 (5).

The Montreal crowd was once again incredible. People even sat on the stairs to encourage their local favorite. After the first set, ball boys in the crowd started doing the wave and the fans kept doing it at side changes. The crowd was loud and seemed to disturb the players in some rallies. But Berdych said later in interview: “It’s a nice advantage for him, but I think we need that more because that’s why we play tennis!”

The third set was a story by itself as every point was a matter of life and death for the huge crowd gathered on BN court after Murray’s loss. Pospisil broke in the third game of the set with a winner return on 30-40. As he lead the set, the fans thought everything was possible for the Canadian, but Berdych broke him in an exhausting eighth game. After trailing 0-40, Pospisil came back to deuce but never managed to get a game point and Berdych evened things out.

Berdych was pushed to the tiebreak by Pospisil aces and that’s also what made the Canadian win the ultimate game. Serving at 5-6, the Czech hit an unforced error as the crowd got up screaming. To have my first top-10 win here, in front of that crowd, was extremely emotional. This win is the best of my whole career”, said Pospisil in a news conference.

One crazy play happened during the third set. In the seventh game, Tomas Berdych was called for a time violation and hit an underhand serve as he heard the chair umpire’s call. It was an ace but Chair Umpire Damien Dumusois refused it. “I don’t see a reason why the point doesn’t count, said Berdych in press conference. If there’s an explanation, I’m just going to ask the referees. I have no idea what’s the rule.“

Nadal Janowicz 88

In other matches

Rafael Nadal [4] came back from breaks in both sets to win against Wimbledon’s semifinalist Jerzy Janowicz [15] 7-6 (6), 6-4.

Benoit Paire was unable to continue to the quarterfinals after eliminating Stanislas Wawrinka [8] on Wednesday. Qualifier Marinko Matosevic defeated him in a close match 7-6 (7), 6-7 (10), 6-3.

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.

 

Photographs by Marc-André Gauthier

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Home Advantage: Top 10 Best Canadian Crowd-Pleasers in Montreal

VP banner

By Charles David Mathieu-Poulin

(August 7, 2013) Montreal – In the wake of possibly the best day, week and year in Canadian tennis history, we look back at the top 10 wildest, craziest and loudest performances of local players at the Rogers Cup in Montreal. The victories that led to standing ovations, chants and waves, Montreal-style. The ones no one expected. The ones we all remember.

10. Frédéric Niemeyer, 2009

A seasoned veteran, Frédéric Niemeyer had announced in 2009 that he would retire at the end of the year. When the Rogers Cup draw came out, everyone hoped for him to face Roger Federer, his long-time friend, in the second round as his farewell match in Montréal. After beating Kunitsyn in the first round, Fred played a tight two set match against a classy Federer, who let him enjoy the spotlight. One of those well-deserved feel-good moments we all enjoy.

Eugenie Bouchard

Eugenie Bouchard

9. Eugenie Bouchard, 2012

While Eugenie ‘Genie’ Bouchard is now on the brink of becoming one of WTA’s biggest stars, she still was fairly unknown to the casual Canadian fans in early 2012. After winning Junior Wimbledon and the Granby Challenger, she came to the Rogers Cup full of confidence and with all eyes on her. Her first round match on a packed Center Court against Shahar Peer seemed like a tough task, but the Montreal-born blonde kept her composure to win 7-5 in the third, to the delight of the adoring crowd. After a tight two-set loss to Li Na in the second round, everybody knew it was the start of a long love affair between Genie and Montreal.

8. Sébastien Leblanc, 1997

Sébastien Leblanc was best known for his doubles skills: paired with fellow Canadians Sebastien Lareau and Greg Rusedski, he won three consecutive Junior Doubles Grand Slams in 1990 and got up to number 127 in the senior doubles rankings. So when he came out at the 1997 Rogers Cup to face Tim Henman, then ranked 18th in the world, the expectations were low for the 885th ranked Canadian, playing his first ATP match of the year. The first set was decided in a tiebreak, where Leblanc had the lead early and never looked back after a string of unforced errors from Henman. The second set stayed tight until the end, and while the ecstatic applause seemed to get in Tim’s head, he managed to level the match by breaking late in the set. In the third, playing aggressive tennis and rushing to the net, Leblanc broke for a 5-3 lead, and finished the match on a spectacular plunging dropshot volley winner. Leblanc would end up losing easily in the next round and retiring a few months after, but this remains a fuzzy-yellow-ball Cinderella story to be told.

872013 Raonic 9460075095_7f4153fb29_z

7. Milos Raonic, 2009

When Milos first stepped on the Montreal courts for the 2009 qualifying draw, he was a tall, lanky, a-bit-awkward giant with a big serve. He surprised everyone by beating Gabashvili and Llodra to qualify, and set up a night match against feisty world No. 10 Fernando Gonzalez in the first round. Only experience separated the two, and “Gonzo” ended up winning after saving a match point in the second set tiebreak, but the rowdy National Bank crowd which got the first taste of Milos-mania. It was the first sign of brilliance from Milos, who actually is now a tall, lanky, a-bit-less-awkward giant with a big serve.

6. Aleksandra Wozniak, 2012

Aleksandra Wozniak is the most successful Quebec player ever to step on a tennis court (being ranked as high as 21), but the Blainville native had never really shone at the Rogers Cup, coming in the 2012 main draw with a 3-9 record. After serious injuries, she was on the way back up in 2012, but a tough draw was ahead of her. After scraping through Daniela Hantuchova in the first round, she upset Jelena Jankovic easily in the second round and beat Christina McHale in the third round before losing to her nemesis Caroline Wozniacki in the quarterfinals. It was a great moment for Aleks who got over her mental block in Montreal, and a great moment for the crowd enjoying their protégé’s long-awaited local success.

5. Simon Larose, 2003

Simon Larose was known on the ATP circuit as a talented but party-oriented fellow. Living up to his reputation, rocking a mohawk tucked under a bandana, he came to the Montreal 2003 Rogers Cup ranked at number 315. While everyone was looking forward to his blockbuster first round against Gustavo Kuerten, nobody expected more than a decent-but-outrageous showing from Larose. Outrageous it was, but decent it wasn’t: playing superb tennis, Larose upset the former number 1 and Grand Slam champion in a tight two-setter, falling on his knees in disbelief after match point. Riding the wave in the next round, he beat Jose Acasuso in a thriller, coming back from 1-3 in the third set, setting up a meeting with legend Andre Agassi in the third round. Despite losing 6-4 6-2 after having a 4-1 lead in the first, Larose had the best tennis week of his life and became a household name in Montreal. The after-tourney party was probably epic.

4. Stephanie Dubois, 2008

Stephanie Dubois is a feisty competitor that fuels on the crowd’s energy. She therefore has created over the years a mutual agreement with Montrealers: the more they cheer, the more she fights, the more they chant, the more she wins. After reaching the third round in 2006 due to a Kim Clijsters retirement, Steph brought the crowd to its feet by repeating the feat two years later. While the match wasn’t memorable, her first round against Govortsova was played in a bizarre environment: after waiting for hours to start the match due to a rain delay, the players came out of the locker room well over 10pm, acclaimed by a very small but raucous crowd, excited to finally see some action. At one point, the stadium fire alarm started ringing for a what seems like forever: while the players were seated waiting for it to stop, a smart supporter yelled ‘Steph is on fireeeeeeeee!’, leading to an overall laughter. Dubois kept the fire going in her second round against Maria Kirilenko, arguably her best win ever, a match which had superb shot making, long rallies and will stay in the books as one of the most inspired Canadian performances in Montreal.

Pospisil

3. The 2013 Crew

Mark the dates: August 5th-6th, 2013. In previous years, the Montreal crowd would get excited when one or two Canadians would sneak into round 2. So when five local players won their first match (and the other lost a close three-setter against a top 15 player), there was an overall sense of excitement on the Stade Uniprix grounds. It all started on Monday night, when newly- minted Canadian Jesse Levine upset Xavier Malisse, while Peter Polansky played an inspired match despite losing to Kei Nishikori in front of a chanting and waving Center Court. It was a sign of things to come, as the long, tedious, overdramatic wins kept on rolling the next day: Filip Peliwo, Frank Dancevic,  Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic all moved through despite being a few points away from defeat. So who will go the furthest down the draw and make this same list in 2033?

2. Sébastien Lareau, 1999

Sébastien Lareau was the proud flag-bearer through a few dry years for Canadian tennis in the late nineties and early noughties, notably in doubles. The Montreal tournament, which he called ‘My Wimbledon’, saw him get the best single wins of his career. In 1999, he came in the tournament ranked at 116. After winning his first round in two sets against Justin Gimelstob, he had a tough task ahead of him in Richard Krajicek, 5th seed and 7th in the world. When the Dutchman won the first set 6-4, everyone thought logic was followed. But the crowd got into the match, probably as intensely as ever, and when Krajicek doublefaulted at 4-6 in the tiebreak, the entire stadium exploded in strong applause and a standing ovation. The magic atmosphere helped Lareau stay on top of the wave, and after missing three match points while serving for the match in the third, a final service winner handed him the biggest match of his career. He lost in three tough sets to eventual winner Thomas Johansson in the next round in another dramatic thriller, but he rekindled the Montreal love for Canadian tennis, which in itself is the best feat of all.

Dancevic

1. Frank Dancevic, 2007

Everyone agrees that Frank Dancevic is more talented than what his résumé suggests: often injured, the Canadian never really had the chance to blossom into the player he could have been. The best example of this is the 2007 Rogers Cup, where he went on a string of fantastic results, to the delight of the Montreal crowd. Juan Martin Del Potro, Wayne Odesnik and Fernando Verdasco all were honorable victims of Frank’s big serve-and-volley game and all three matches went deep in the third set. The quarterfinal match against none other than Rafael Nadal seemed like just icing on the cake, but Frank had other plans in mind. On this Friday Night, where the entire city had its eyes turned to tennis, Dancevic stormed through the first set, breaking in the last game, to the disbelief of most. With a perfect attacking game and a surprisingly strong backhand, Frank was dreaming of the upset, but the fatigue of the week (and Nadal’s well-known fighting spirit) got in the way, as the last two set went straightforwardly to the Spaniard. It was the first time since 1989 that a Canadian reached the quarterfinals, a feat repeated by Raonic in 2012, but for Dancevic it was ‘the experience of a lifetime’. And we’ll all remember it.

Charles David Mathieu-Poulin blogs for WtaQuebec www.wtaquebec.com, a website promoting local Quebec players. He is covering the Rogers Cup in Montreal for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on twitter @earthstroke, follow his Montreal coverage on @TennnisNewsTPN.

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Tuesday is “Canada Day” at Montreal Masters

Pospisil

By Dominique Cambron-Goulet

(August 6, 2013) MONTREAL – It might be something in the water or is it the unusual cool weather since the beginning of the tournament? Whatever the reason is, Canadians are performing well in the early days of Montreal ATP Masters 1000.

All the Canadians performing Tuesday were able to get to the second round. The young Filip Peliwo [WC] took advantage of an injured Jarko Nieminen to come back and finally win by forfeit 3-6, 7-5, 3-1. 169th player in the world Frank Dancevic [WC] was able to win the second set tiebreaker against Yen-Hsun Lu and then easily took the third set to win 5-7, 7-6 (6), 6-1. “I noticed he had trouble serving in the third set, so I putted some pressure and it paid off”, said Dancevic after the game.

The third Canadian to play that day was 71th ranked Vasek Pospisil against John Isner. It was a real battle where the crowd made the difference as Pospisil clinched the game 5-7, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4). After winning the no-break second set in the tiebreak 7-5, Pospisil was able to come back after trailing 0-3 in the third set. He won three straight games (one break) at 1-4 to keep up with Isner. Again trailing in the tiebreaker 2-4, the Canadian won the last five points to cause an upset against Washington DC’s runner-up. I’ve had similar wins against players that are ranked 20 in the world, but that was extremely special, said Pospisil in interview. The atmosphere at the end was incredible.”

862013 Milis Raonic 3

Two weeks ago, Tennis Canada announced that Milos Raonic was going to play on Tuesday night. Everyone expected this night to be crazy, when for the first time, a Canadian ranked in the top-15 was playing at home. After the great performances from the crowd’s favorites during the day, it was set in the mind of the fans that it was going to by a walk in the park for Raonic. He managed to win indeed 6-3, 4-6, 7-5, but scared the crowd at some points during the match.

Milos Raonic opened up with a break in the first set. The crowd really got into the match from the first game and on. Both players were serving well afterwards, rallies were short and quick and no other break happened. 6-3 Raonic

The Canadian started to make unforced errors in the second set, as if he had no feel of the ball. Chardy was able to edge him at the end winning the set 6-4. From that point the crowd got as nervous as Raonic.

Luckily for their favorite, the 11th seed was serving first in the last set which gave him the mental advantage. Trailing 5-6, Chardy totally cracked giving a 0-40 lead to his opponent. After the Frenchman saved one match point, Raonic made the crowd burst in joy as he made complete Canadians’ perfect day.  “I’m trying to be more aggressive than before by attacking early and taking the net more often. I hesitated on some points tonight but I’m happy with the way I played”, analyzed Raonic after the match.

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.

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Notes from the Front – SAP Open 2013, Day Three

John-Isner_Miami-Tennis-Cup-e1354390274784

John Isner

By Kevin Ware

(February 14, 2013) SAN JOSE – Here are some more courtside impressions from an eventful Day Three at the SAP Open.  It was mixed bag of fun matches and dramatic wins.  But let’s start with the sad and unsettling loss by Donald Young.

  • I don’t know what to say anymore regarding the sad and curious case of Donald Young. With each shot he makes, you see the talent that took him to No. 1 in the juniors; yet with each unforced error and pained aftermath, you’re reminded of the reasons that his pro career has hit the proverbial wall. His loss to Michael Russell during the day session was about as ugly as it gets. Neither guy played well, but Donald’s lack of confidence at crunch time was the tipping point.  Every gaze over to his box is filled with agonizing pleas for help that isn’t arriving anytime soon.  It’s tough to watch.  Even though us in the “media” should maintain some semblance of neutrality, it doesn’t stop me from hoping that Donald comes back from the brink.
  • Lleyton Hewitt and Marinko Matosevic are quite an entertaining doubles team.  Lleyton is the clear leader, but Marinko holds his own pretty well. Best part is they look like they’re having a great time playing together.  We should all be so lucky with our partners, right?!
  • Steve Johnson continued to make the most of his wildcard with a stirring 6-7, 6-4, 7-6 win over Ivo Karlovic. After losing a tough first set by playing a horrible tiebreaker, Johnson stood toe-to-toe with one of the best servers in the game and found a way to break for the second set. In the third set tiebreaker, Karlovic served an ace to go up 6-4 in the tiebreak.  With two match points in hand, Karlovic inexplicably ran off the rails; committing three consecutive unforced errors to give Johnson a match point.  Karlovic followed a strong approach to the net, and all Johnson could do was toss up a high defensive lob.  Out of the blue, Karlovic was struck by a case of “tentative overhead-itis”.  He smashed the ball weakly back to Johnson, who happily thundered a hard and low forehand to Karlovic at the net. The big man could only muster a flubbed volley response.  Game, set, and match to Johnson, who had no business winning that match but did anyway.
  • The night session pitted American John Isner against Canadian Vasek Pospisil.  John is 27 and Vasek is 22, but they both look no older than 14 (plus/minus a year or two).
  • Isner was slow in finding his game for the match, but didn’t blame any of it on his knee.  However, he did admit to having back issues because of his flight.  With all of Nemo’s canceled flights, he lost his upgrade seat and had to fly coach in a window seat to San Jose.  The ATP website lists John’s official height as 6′ 9″.  Just think about that the next time you complain about being in a middle seat! FYI, if John flies coach and no exit rows are available, window seats are his only option to save his knees from the battering they’ll inevitably take with the cart going up and down the aisle.
  • Bay area actress Diane Amos was in attendance tonight at the HP Pavilion to watch the evening session at the SAP Open.  Or as I put it more succinctly in one of my tweets at the start of Isner’s match, ” Random fact: the Pine Sol lady is in the house tonight for the Isner match.”
  • When asked what he did to pay back Sam Querrey  for bailing the US team out of trouble in Davis Cup action after his own 5-set heartbreaker to Thomaz Bellucci, Isner said “I think he took some of my money in cards that night actually, and I didn’t do it on purpose.”

The tournament action heats up on Day Four with a day session featuring young Americans Tim Smyczek and Steve Johnson battling for a spot in the quarterfinals, as well as the anticipated match between Sam Querrey and Lleyton Hewitt.  The night session features the return of the defending champion, Milos Raonic, as he takes on Michael Russell; plus more doubles action with the Bryans.  I will save my Raonic/Russell “tall and small” jokes for after the match…

 

Kevin Ware is in San Jose covering the SAP Open as media for Tennis Panorama News. Follow his live updates on twitter @TennisNewsTPN.  Follow his personal twitter @SFTennisFreak.

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Davis Cup: Canada Storms to a 2-0 Lead

By Charles David Mathieu-Poulin

MONTREAL, CANADA – To the delight of the local crowd, both Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic were near flawless in the first two singles matches of the Canada-South Africa tie played at Uniprix Stadium in Montreal. Without dropping a set, both Canadians secured a commanding 2-0 lead and confirmed their role as heavy favorites in this encounter.

 

On paper, this already seemed like a tough task for the South African team: they flew to Canada without their best player, 35th ranked Kevin Anderson, and veteran Rik de Voest, on the starting line-up, injured his wrist practicing earlier during the week and had to withdraw. John-Laffnie de Jager, coach of the South African team, actually had to sign in as a player to ensure a fourth member from his country and prevent disqualification. This left Izak van der Merwe, 188th in the world, and University of Mississippi player (and unranked) Nikala Scholtz as the starting singles players.

 

On the other hand, Canada couldn’t have asked for a better team. Led by 15th ranked Milos Raonic, the Canadian crew was looking to maintain its spot in the World Group and brought out the big guns in order to do so. Joining Milos was 118th ranked Vasek Pospisil, Frank Dancevic (130th) and doubles star Daniel Nestor.

 

On Friday afternoon, Canada’s No. 2 Pospisil started off against South African’s number 1 van de Merwe in what was already a key moment of the encounter. Indeed, this match theoretically seemed like the most even one of the weekend, while the other four had the Canadians as the favorites with a much greater edge. Using his strong forehand and getting pumped up by the loud cheers from the crowd, Pospisil came out strong off the blocks, being perfect on break point conversions in the first two sets to take a fast 6-3 6-4 lead. The third set saw van de Merwe give the Canadian a much tougher time, especially as Pospisil was serving for the match, but it was too little too late as Pospisil regrouped to finish in three straight sets and give Canada a 1-0 lead.

 

For Nikala Scholtz, playing Davis Cup for his country was a dream: the sophomore at University of Mississippi was already happy to be in Montreal as a hitting partner when news of de Voest’s withdrawal changed his weekend plans. A few days later, the player ranked 14th in the NCAA rankings came on court and had a big (and tall) task in front of him in Milos Raonic, ranked 15th…on the professional tour. Fresh from a strong summer hardcourt season where he reached two consecutive quarterfinals in Masters events and the round of 16 at the US Open, Raonic was the star attraction of the event in Montreal.

 

And the 6-foot-5 Canadian didn’t disappoint: blasting serves (and 26 aces!), he totally overpowered Scholtz with his serve, never giving him a single break opportunity. While the match was much more even from the ground, Scholtz’s efforts couldn’t help him keep up with Raonic’s level: the Canadian cruised through in three sets in just under two hours.

 

This win gave Canada a commanding 2-0 lead, and the Nestor-Pospisil pair will be aiming at already securing the Canadian win on Saturday in the doubles match of the tie.

Charles David Mathieu-Poulin blogs for WtaQuebec www.wtaquebec.com, a website promoting local Quebec players. He is covering the Davis Cup in Montreal for Tennis Panorama News. Follow him on twitter @earthstroke, follow his Montreal coverage on @TennnisNewsTPN.

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Pospisil Takes a Firm Step Forward in Valencia

By Tumaini Carayol

VALENCIA, Spain – Of all the juniors in 2011, it has been Milos Raonic who has made the most progress since the beginning of the year and solidified his place as a future star. But Raonic isn’t the only young player to make strides in 2011, and not even the only player from his country to do so. This year has also been the coming-out year for another Canadian born in 1990 called Vasek Pospisil.

 

Age and country is where the similarities between Raonic and Pospisil end, however. While Raonic shot up the rankings out of seemingly nowhere, Pospisil has been a steadily improving work in progress.

 

For most of the year, Pospisil could be found on the challenger circuit, spending most of his time traveling to obscure venues and winning numerous matches for minimal points and prize money. His breakthrough has come in bits and pieces – first when he defeated Chela in Toronto before giving Federer a tight two-setter, then when he qualified for the US Open and emphatically won his first ever Slam main draw, and then when he single-handedly led Canada into the Davis Cup World Group.

 

This week in Valencia has proven to be yet another bold step forward. After qualifying for an ATP 500 event for the first time, the Canadian found some majestic form en-route to a nail biting tight three set victory over 23rd-ranked John Isner on Monday.

 

The victory in itself was impressive, but the manner in which he took the match was even more so. From the very first point, the 21 year-old looked to take the ball on, and it set the tone for the rest of the match, with his forehand dominating proceedings from start to finish. There were moments in the match when his form wavered – but he always found a way through those patches.

 

He eventually ended up in a third-set tiebreak with Isner, and though most tend to immediately concede defeat when faced with a tiebreak with the 6’ 10” American, Pospisil simply committed himself even more, blasting four winners in the first five points before eventually finding himself up three match points. Once again, the Canadian wavered, but also once again, he refused to let it affect him, holding tight onto his serve before eventually finding an Isner second serve and punishing it to advance into the second round.

 

Will Pospisil ever be a world-beating top player? Maybe; maybe not. At this point it is unlikely, but still hard to tell. However, considering how much hype and time is given to the likes of Ryan Harrison, Bernard Tomic and Grigor Dimitrov – all talented but temperamental, inconsistent and with the mental strength of a brick – it’s just nice to see a young player with talent and his head firmly screwed on.

 

After all, in tennis that’s all you need.

Tumaini Carayol is covering the Valencia Open  for Tennis Panorama News. He is a  contributing writer at On The Baseline, and writes about professional tennis at his site Foot Fault. Follow his Valencia coverage here and on our twitter account @TennisNewsTPN. Follow his personal twitter at @FootFault_.

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