What a beautiful day!
Arriving at Stade Uniprix on Wednesday, there was the familiar sight of the swimming pool right near the main entrance to the grounds. But unlike during the Rogers Cup event in Montreal in August, the pool is locked up and the only ‘bathers’ are a bunch of squatters of the seagull variety.
It really was a great day, not a cloud in the sky – hot but not oppressive, and with a nice little breeze.
The media had access to Vasek Pospisil and Milos Raonic on in the main Stade Uniprix stadium around midday and the two conducted interviews in a very relaxed atmosphere ahead of this weekend’s Davis Cup World Group Playoff against South Africa on Court One.
Exactly a year ago, Canada also participated in the World Group Playoffs, but then it was in Ramat Hasharon, Israel, with a spot in the 2012 World Group at stake.
Here are the key results from that tie:
1st match: Vasek Pospisil def. Dudi Sela 7-6(4), 6-7(6), 6-1, 6-7(2), 6-3.
Doubles match: Pospisil/ Nestor def. Erlich/Ram 4-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-4.
5th match: Vasek Pospisil def. Amir Weintraub 6-2, 7-6(3), 6-4.
Clearly the constant in all those results was Pospisil (above being interviewed on Wednesday) who almost single-handedly lifted Canada into the World Group where it lost to France in Vancouver in the opening round last February.
He insists he doesn’t want to take all the credit and goes to pains to point out that Philip Bester won the crucial fifth match in Ecuador in the second round in 2011 and that Raonic won all three matches in the first round against Mexico.
“I was just really confident at the time,” Pospisil said about playing in Israel last September. “Thinking back, I don’t really remember much of it. It was all just sort of a daze, especially after that first match and then the doubles. In a way it helped me that I was so tired and because I wasn’t really thinking about the pressure of the situation. But obviously it’s always in the back of your mind how tired you are. That situation brought out the best in me.”
The tie was made more difficult by the fact that Raonic, as was evident after his second match loss to Weintraub, was not yet physically ready following his hip surgery two and a half months earlier.
“It was obviously not a pleasant surprise to hear that Milos wasn’t going to play after his first match,” Pospisil said. “Going to bed after I beat Sela, even though it was a great win and a great day for me, I knew I had to step up because we had to win the doubles to win and then the last singles match after Peter (Polansky) lost in the fourth match.”
When the draw for this weekend’s World Group Playoff is done at noon on Thursday, Pospisil will almost certainly be named as the No. 2 singles player behind Raonic
On Wednesday, Raonic was asked about his three-set loss in the round-of-16 at the US Open to eventual champion Andy Murray.
“It just gave me a very good sense about the level that has to be produced to win Grand Slams,” he said. “He played really well and it was a great match by him. I felt like I did a lot of things well. It gives me more insight and more experience into what I need to do to put myself into the position that he’s put himself in. I’m happy with how I competed, just a few technical things I need to keep improving as a player.”
To a question about how much he follows his ATP ranking, Raonic replied, “not too closely, I’m aware of it. I’m into social media and so forth, so I hear about it. But I don’t really follow it day in and day out. Obviously now it gets a little bit more specific because I my goal is to get to London at the end of the year. So we’ll see what it comes down to. I feel this is a part of the season I’m very comfortable with, especially with a few more indoor events coming up.”
Raonic’s focus is on the ATP World Tour Finals to be held at the O2 Arena in London from November 5-12.
Here is how the Race to London stands at the moment, with Raonic hoping to get to No. 8 (best case scenario) for direct entry, or to No. 10 for one of the two (injury) standby positions.
No. 8: Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 2745 points.
No. 10: Nicolas Almagro 2375 points
No. 14: Milos Raonic 1975 points
It is interesting to note that things could get a little easier if Rafael Nadal decides not to play again the rest of the year, as many people are speculating. That would move Raonic one spot closer.
Here is his tentative schedule for the fall beginning the week after Davis Cup on September 24: Bangkok (indoors), Tokyo (outdoors), Shanghai (outdoors), a week off, Valencia or Basel (indoors) and Paris (indoors).
The one thing that was noticeable in the interviews with Pospisil and Raonic – no one was asking questions about the Canadian team’s opposition in the World Group Playoff, the South Africans. Below is a picture of Nikala Scholtz (near side) playing against Raven Klaasen on Wednesday. With Izak van der Merwe not practicing the past two days and looking questionable for this weekend’s action, the gangly 6-foot-5 Scholtz could be the second singles player behind Rik de Voest.
Being on the main 10,000-seat plus Stade Uniprix court for the Pospisil and Raonic interviews, it was impossible not to notice some serious holes in the playing surface – see below. Apparently there was a beach soccer event in the stadium right after the Rogers Cup in August and the Deco Turf surface took a beating. That is why neither team in has been practicing in the main stadium, just in Court One, where the matches will be played, and some of the side courts.
In other news, former Davis Cupper Frédéric Niemeyer revealed today he will be ending his almost two-year coaching relationship with Pospisil at the end of the month.
Niemeyer and wife Annie are expecting a second child soon. “If I would have continued, I would have been lying to everybody – Vasek, my family and myself,” he said. “But I will always be there to help Vasek. He is much better than his ranking (No. 124) and should be in the top 50 or top 60.”
NESTOR HAS A NEW PARTNER FOR ’13
The team of Daniel Nestor and Max Mirnyi will play out the 2012 doubles season and that will be the end of a two-year partnership that has resulted in two French Open titles and an extended stay as co-No. 1s atop the ATP doubles rankings.
“Max isn’t confirmed to play a full season next year, he’s a little bit skeptical about his elbow,” Nestor explained about his Belarussian partner. “It’s a little bit hard for me to wait until the last second to see what he’s going to do. So I just decided to switch.”
It is disappointing that they will no longer be together because Mirnyi got better and better over the course of his time with Nestor. The two won a total of eight titles together – four in 2011 and four so far in 2012 – including the two at Roland Garros, the 2011 ATP World Tour Finals and the Masters 1000 event in Shanghai last year.
Nestor’s new partner will be Mahesh Bhupathi, the 38-year-old Indian who currently ranks No. 18.
Bhupathi has three career Grand Slam titles, but none since Roland Garros in 2001.
Overall, he has 50 career titles (to 79 for Nestor) and he has won at least one title for 16 consecutive years.
“He’s eager and I’ve had a lot respect for his accomplishments over the years,” said Nestor, newly turned 40 and currently ranked co-No. 3, about Bhupathi. “He’s a great doubles player and he has great doubles instincts. I feel that if he can make the transition well to the other side (the deuce court), we can be a very good team.”
As far as other changes coming for 2012, Nestor said, “(Nenad) Zimonjic will play with (Robert) Linstedt and Mirnyi will now play with (Horia) Tecau.”
Bhupathi played with his compatriot Rohan Bopanna in 2012. It appears possible that Bopanna may reunite with his former partner, Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan.