Vasek Pospisil provided some of the most stirring moments at last year’s Rogers Cup in Montreal, stockpiling upset victories and stoking that electric vibe surrounding Canadian tennis. The stage seemed set for another fist-pumping run this summer in Toronto, as he came to town right after his first-ever appearance in an ATP final.
There will be no such run on home soil for Pospisil this summer. Instead, he leaves Toronto after one round with a minor leg injury and a costly drop in his ATP world ranking.
For the second time in four days, Pospisil faced world No. 13 Richard Gasquet. The Canadian had defeated the Frenchman Saturday at the Citi Open semi-final in Washington, but Pospisil tweaked his right leg on Tuesday, and Gasquet won the first-round match 7-5, 7-5. Then the native of Vernon, B.C., also pulled out of the doubles draw; he may require an MRI on the leg before testing it further.
Milos Raonic is now the only Canadian man left in the Rogers Cup singles draw. Peter Polansky of Thornhill, Ont., lost to Roger Federer 6-2, 6-0, Donald Young topped Frank Dancevic of Niagara Falls 5-7, 6-0, 6-3 and Arto Sieppi downed qualifier Brayden Schnur of Pickering, Ont., 6-3, 6-3.
The rankings climb Pospisil expected in 2014 looked as if it was on course after he had finally recovered from an early-season back injury . The 24-year-old Canadian came to Toronto as one of the biggest movers of the week in the ATP world rankings, leaping up nine spots to No. 27 thanks to the Washington final, where he lost 6-1, 6-4 in the first-ever all-Canadian final to Raonic. Due to the large number of points he was defending from last year’s semi-final finish in Montreal, Pospisil will likely drop to between 40th and 50th in the rankings.
The unseeded Canadian had medical treatment on the abductor muscle in his right upper leg during the first set Tuesday, and he said the injury affected his ability to lunge, although he wouldn’t blame it for the loss.
Toronto’s light afternoon crowd was far from the thundering late-tournament support he enjoyed in Montreal last year. Pospisil, who has played 14 sets of tennis in the last week, struggled with unforced errors, particularly on his backhand. The match ended on a Pospisil double fault.
“I think I’m tired mentally maybe – I’ve been on the road a lot of weeks, and you need to be 100 per cent at this level, playing against Richard,” said Pospisil, who seemed unfazed. “It’s disappointing because it affected the match today, but I can’t even compare it to the back injury. It’s just a minor thing, and I just want to be ready for [next week’s event in] Cincinnati.”
Pospisil finished 2013 ranked 30th – nearly 100 spots higher than a year earlier – after a season that, in addition to the Rogers Cup semis versus Raonic, had some top-10s and an epic three-setter against Roger Federer to end his year.
But Pospisil’s 2014 started with disappointment. Just four days into January, while steamrolling to the semi-finals in Chennai, India, Pospisil retired versus Stan Wawrinka due to a lower-back injury. It then forced him to pull out of his third-round match at the Australian Open. Pospisil didn’t win another tournament match until June.
“That back injury was devastating for Vasek – it was a very tough and frustrating time for him,” his father, Milos, said by phone from Mexico, where he is coaching junior players in an International Tennis Federation tournament. “It was hard to play when he never knew whether his body would last through the match. It was so good to see how well he played recently, especially in Washington, after all he went through over those months.”
Pospisil had made the quarter-finals in four of his past five events prior to arriving in Toronto. He teamed with American Jack Sock to win the doubles crown at Wimbledon, upsetting the top-ranked U.S team of Bob and Mike Bryan. They then won another event in Atlanta. Sock said their doubles success has given a boost to both men as singles players, too.
“Yes, 110 per cent,” said Sock, who beat Jurgen Meltzer 6-1, 6-3 Tuesday to set up a second-round match Wednesday with Raonic. “Any time you can go through a Grand Slam and be one of the last guys in the locker room, it can only boost your confidence. It wasn’t singles – the ultimate goal for both of us – but we played four top-10 teams [at Wimbledon]. To be able to beat the best doubles team of all time on Centre Court in the final has helped both of us a lot.”
Then Pospisil really came alive with his run to the Citi Open final, besting No. 5 Tomas Berdych and outlasting Gasquet. He even had to gut through a four-set day on Saturday after rain postponed the deciding set of his Friday-night match with Santiago Giraldo until Saturday morning. Pospisil said that’s when fatigue set in. Raonic dominated the final, but still, the Rogers Cup offered a fresh chance in Canada.
It didn’t happen, but it doesn’t deter his intention to play both singles and doubles in Cincinnati and at the U.S. Open. He hasn’t had much downtime in Canada this year, so he may savour some of it here now.
“I would have liked to have won, but there are good things in everything,” said Pospisil. “Maybe I’ll go to Wonderland or something.”