Fans of Canadian tennis are in party mode at the Rogers Cup men’s tournament.
Fans have packed the grandstands as a record five Canadian players reached the second round of the $3.49-million (U.S.) event.
Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont., and Vernon, B.C.-born Vasek Pospisil will square off in the semi-finals – the first Canadians to make it to that stage since Mike Belkin in 1969.
There has been chanting during changeovers, huge roars for every Canadian point and, perhaps unfortunately, frequent applause when their opponents miss.
Some opponents have been put off by the Davis Cup-like cheering for the home side, but not Tomas Berdych, Pospisil’s third-round victim.
“You are not used to that in the regular tournaments,” the fifth seed from the Czech Republic said. “Even if you play [a] local guy where the tournament is going on, the atmosphere is not that loud.
“I mean, it’s nice. We need this more because that’s why we play tennis. That’s a nice advantage that he has. You know, I’m used to it from Davis Cup matches, so it was nothing new.”
The fans may take it a little too far by cheering when an opponent hits a first serve long or into the net, however.
“It’s nice when the crowd is helping me, but the crowd [here] is, I would say, disturbing me,” Jerzy Janowicz of Poland said of the atmosphere during his second-round win over Frank Dancevic of Niagara Falls, Ont. “They were even clapping after a first serve miss.
“If the crowd is trying to make you crazy, sometimes, you are going nuts, yeah. Everything is fine as long as they are not trying to [make you angry].”
Other than Raonic, the 11th seed and Canada’s top player, the Canadians played mostly on side courts. At times, centre court looked deserted as supporters crowded into limited seating on lesser courts to cheer on the homegrown players.
Pospisil, who lets his emotions show on the court, gets the crowds going with his fist-pumping and other gestures. He hopes it isn’t interpreted as poor sportsmanship.
“I try to be respectful,” he said. “I just try to pump myself up.
“If there’s an issue, then I’m sure the opponent would bring it up or the referee would bring it up. I would have no problem toning it down. I’m playing at home in front of a big crowd. Of course, I’m pumping myself up a little bit more than I would in a normal situation.”
Fans are unaccustomed to seeing Canada do well at the country’s biggest tournament. It has been more than two decades since two Canadians made it past the second round of the singles draw.
Jesse Levine of Ottawa also felt some love as he reached the second round, but it likely won’t be the same in a few weeks when he plays at the U.S. Open in New York. Levine switched his allegiance from American to Canadian this year, and will be a visiting player there for the first time.
“It could be pretty different,” he said with a laugh. “Let’s just say I won’t have the support like I did here this week.
“It’s funny because when I made the switch, once people realized that I was actually born in Ottawa, lived there till I was 14, they were like ‘Oh, okay.’ They didn’t realize that. They thought I lived in the States my whole life.
“But I’ll have my helmet on, getting ready for the bottles to be thrown at me.”