Vasek Pospisil was one set away from the prospect of a truly inspired week when he was felled by a back injury and wound up losing the final of the $100,000 KPSF Open Challenger event in San Francisco 7-5, 3-6, 6-2 to qualifier Ze Zhang of China on Sunday.
Playing exactly a week after his second singles win of the Davis Cup weekend in Ottawa versus Britain on Sunday the 5th , Pospisil was trailing 1-2 but leading 30-love in the final set when, after winning the point, he slumped forward and headed directly for his courtside chair.
At that juncture in the match, after failing to convert a 4-1 opening set lead but rallying to take the second set, he seemed to be in a good position to prevail against the No. 195-ranked Zhang. While both players were aged 26, the No. 131 Pospisil had a career-high ranking of No. 25 (2014) as well as four Challenger titles and Zhang a best ranking of just No. 148 (2013) and no Challenger victories. Experience and precedent were certainly on Pospisil’s side.
Though he managed to hold serve to 2-2 on his return from a medical time-out and treatment on the court by a trainer, Pospisil was obviously in pain and limited in his movement. Once he lost his serve to go down 4-2, his chances had vanished.
Just seven days before nearly to the hour, Pospisil had spoken to reporters in Ottawa following his hard-fought 7-6(5), 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(5) Davis Cup victory over world No. 45 Daniel Evans in the fourth match of the Canada – Britain tie. He had spent a total of eight hours and 39 minutes on court over a weekend that also included a three-set win over No. 47-ranked Kyle Edmund on Friday and a four-set doubles loss with Daniel Nestor to Dominic Inglot and Jamie Murray on Saturday.
Bothered by an upper left leg issue and a back problem, he definitely sounded doubtful about playing the San Francisco Challenger.
“I have a flight tomorrow morning at 6 a.m. and I will play an event in San Francisco, a Challenger, but I’m not sure I’m going to play,” he said in his media conference. “I’m going to fly there because my team (including coach Mark Woodforde) is landing tonight and they’re going to be there. It’s pretty likely I won’t actually participate depending on how my body feels. I’ll go and see how I feel. You never know maybe…anything can happen but I’m not expecting to play.”
He did play and won a tough opening match 6-7(5), 6-1, 6-3 over No. 158 Marco Trungelliti of Argentina before taking out three 19-year-old American hot prospects – Reilly Opelka [6-7(5), 6-1, 6-3], Frances Tiafoe [6-1, 6-4] and Michael Mmoh [6-1, 6-2].
Everyone knows what a gritty player Pospisil is and a win in the KPSF Open final would have been a huge boost after tough times last year and early this year, including a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 loss to No. 192-ranked Uladzimir Ignatik of Belarus in the first round (above) of the Australian Open qualifying last month.
His impressive play in Davis Cup and in San Francisco was certainly a welcome sign. As it is, his ranking rose from No. 131 to No. 118 with the runner-up finish at the KPSF Open, but it would have gone up to about No. 108 if he had beaten Zhang.
Generally No. 104 (depending on withdrawals and players using protected rankings) is the cut-off for Grand Slam events, so he would have been closing in.
Pospisil was in the draw for this week’s $75,000 Challenger in Tempe, Arizona, but has pulled out. Depending on his fitness, he is slated to play the qualifying for next week’s ATP 250 in Delray Beach where Milos Raonic is the top seed.
The injury is a worry because he was bothered by a persistent back problem for almost all of the first half of 2014 – losing eight singles matches in a row between January and June.
With his uncanny ability to make remarkable recoveries, Pospisil fans will hope he’s able to bounce back quickly and be ready for Delray Beach this coming weekend.
Led by a pair of Fed Cup rookies – Bianca Andreescu, 16, of Mississauga, Ont., and Katherine Sebov, 18, of Toronto – the Canadian team travelled to Metepec, Mexico, last week and emerged victorious from a group of nine countries in Americas Group I round-robin competition.
Andreescu (above with captain Sylvain Bruneau) was 6-0 (four singles and two doubles with 18-year-old Charlotte Robillard-Millette of Blainville, Que.) and Sebov 4-0 (three singles and one doubles with Robillard-Millette). The only sets lost all week came in the opening-day singles when Robillard-Millette was beaten 6-3, 6-4 by Adriana Perez of Venezuela.
Canada defeated Venezuela 2-1, Bolivia 3-0 and Paraguay 3-0 in the round-robin phase.
In the final, the No. 327-ranked Sebov, at No. 2 singles, defeated No. 592 Barbara Galtican of Chile 6-2, 6-2 and Andreescu, No. 293, beat No. 234 Daniela Seguel 6-3, 6-1. The doubles match was not played so Canada officially won 2-0.
Latin America is not in a peak period for WTA players at the moment with no one in the top-100, unless No. 47 Monica Puig of Puerto Rico is counted.
Still it was an impressive and comprehensive display from the young Canadians (four players middle front row above are Carol Zhao, Sebov, Andreescu and Robillard-Millette) – especially considering the eligible Fed Cup players who were not in Metepec (a suburb of Mexico City). Absent from the Canadian squad for varying reasons were Aleksandra Wozniak (36 ties/42-12 in singles), Gabriela Dabrowski (nine ties/4-6 in singles), Genie Bouchard (four ties/11-4 in singles) and Francoise Abanda (four ties/3-4 in singles.)
The team’s success had to be particularly rewarding for Andreescu who had only had a week off after reaching the semifinals (two points from the final) of the Australian Open junior girls singles and winning the girls doubles with Carson Branstine.
“The risk to go with a young team paid off,” said captain Sylvain Bruneau, who had been in Australia attentively surveying Andreescu’s matches along with her coach, former world No. 3 Nathalie Tauziat of France. “The girls really outdid themselves and honestly, they played even better than I expected.”
Over the past 21 years since 1997, Canada has been in zonal Group I competition for 17 of them and has spent just four years in either World Group I or World Group II.
On Tuesday morning, in a draw at International Tennis Federation headquarters in London, it was determined that Canada will play Kazakhstan in a World Group II Playoff tie to be played somewhere in Canada the weekend of April 22-23. The winner will compete in eight-nation World Group II in 2018. The loser remains in 2018 Group I zonal competition.
Choice of ground was determined by a draw – had it been the other way around it would have been a roughly 9,100 kilometre trip from Toronto to the Kazakh capital city of Astana. For the record, the temperature at 5 p.m. on Tuesday in Astana was -18C (0 Fahrenheit).
The top three Kazakh players are the temperamental Yulia Putintseva, No. 27, the mild-mannered No. 45 Yaroslava Shvedova and No. 175 Zarina Diyas. Putintseva, 22, and Shvedova, 29, were both born in Moscow and are transplanted Russians, while Diyas, 23, is a native Kazakh born in Almaty.
This is surely one of the most striking trophies that will be seen on the ATP tour this year. It was presented to Victor Estrella Burgos after he defeated Paolo Lorenzi 6-7(2), 7-5, 7-6(6), saving a championship point, in Sunday’s final of the Ecuador Open in Quito. It was the third consecutive year the 36-year-old from Dominican Republic has won the ATP 250 Quito tournament – the only three titles of his career.
Playing at home in Sofia, Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria won the fifth title of his career downing David Goffin 7-5, 6-4 in the final. The best match of the tournament was Dimitrov’s 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 scintillating, opening-round win over Jerzy Janowicz of Poland in front of over 12,000 passionate spectators.
Alexander Zverev captured the second title of his career, defeating Richard Gasquet 7-6(4), 6-3 in ATP 250 final in Montpellier, France, on Sunday. Gasquet was going for his third win in a row in Montpellier but was overwhelmed by the 6-foot-6 German.
There was talk last week of three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker joining the Zverev camp as a coach but Alexander, 19, claimed that he could not afford him for the moment.
Above is a picture of Becker with Alexander’s mother Irena watching Alexander and brother Mischa practice before the Australian Open last month.
Alexander and Mischa combined to win the Montpellier doubles title on Sunday, defeating Daniel Nestor and Fabrice Martin of France 6-4, 6-7(3), [10-7] in the final.
Nestor, 44, was hoping to win an ATP doubles title for the 24th year in a row. He will try again this week at the ATP 500 event in Rotterdam as he teams up with regular partner Edouard Roger-Vasselin. They are unseeded as are their first-round opponents, Horia Tecau of Romania and Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands.
Nestor’s ranking did move up as a result of the Montpellier final – he went from No. 24 to No. 21.
This is the TSN schedule of ATP events right through next month’s BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Unfortunately there’s no upcoming coverage of WTA events on the Canadian sports networks.