Vasek Pospisil, Peter Polansky (above in foreground) and Félix Auger-Aliassme will play on Wednesday for spots in the main draw of the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells. Milos Raonic and Denis Shapovalov are already in the main draw.
Pospisil extended his record at Indian Wells in 2018 to 4-1 when he defeated wild card Brandon Nakashima 6-0, 7-6(3) in the first round of the qualifying on Tuesday.
The current world No. 75 won three matches in reaching the semi-finals of the $150,000 Oracle Challenger event last week before losing 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 to Martin Klizan in Saturday’s semi-finals.
Against the 16-year-old Nakashima from San Diego, Pospisil prevailed but was not at all pleased with his performance – and didn’t explain the more competitive second set as a let-up after his one-sided win in the opener, something that can occasionally happen to a player.
“No, I just wasn’t feeling very good even when I won that first set,” he said. “It was a fine line between not feeling the ball very well and feeling it okay.
“There was a bit of a momentum shift in the second – a little bit of wind and other factors… sun in the face. I completely lost my timing, so it was just trying to fight through and find a way.”
It was a pleasant day at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden with the temperature not getting higher than 25 degrees. “Every match I’ve played has been different conditions,” he said about his stay so far in the Coachella Valley. “It’s been very frustrating – one day I played it was freezing in the evening, another day it was pretty perfect mild, another day was l[ike] a hurricane (blowing sand) and today was just a little bit of everything. I didn’t handle it as well as I would have liked to and didn’t play as well as I would have liked to.”
In the second round on Wednesday, Pospisil plays No. 115-ranked Adrian Menendez-Maceiras of Spain. It will be a first meeting between the two and Pospisil described the 32-year-old Spaniard’s game-style as “a typical baseliner.”
A year ago, Pospisil qualified at Indian Wells and went on to upset then world No. 1 Andy Murray in the second round.
Peter Polansky joined Pospisil, who is the top seed in the qualifying but was not the last player to miss getting into the main draw, in reaching round two of the qualifying. He defeated Marcelo Arevalo of El Salvador 7-5, 6-3.
It took five set points for Polansky to seal the deal in the first set but after that he was in control of the match.
“I couldn’t see crap on that one side, it was a joke,” Polansky said about his struggles in closing out the first set after leading 5-2 and having those four set points right at the time the late-afternoon sun was shining onto the court and causing shadows. “The sun was so low. I think we were both struggling on that side. It was going in and out and I literally couldn’t see the ball.”
The current world No. 134 described a dramatic change in the playing conditions during the match. “It got really, really slow out there – really slow,” he said, “with the drop in temperature once the sun went down. It’s a completely different kind of match playing from the day time into the evening.”
Polansky will now be matched against No. 108-ranked Matteo Berrettini of Italy. The 21-year-old Italian beat American Denis Kudla 6-4, 7-5 on Tuesday. It was revenge for a match Berrettini lost in the final round of Australian Open qualifying two months ago after leading Kudla 5-3, 40-15 (two match points) in the final set.
Polansky is well aware that Berrettini has talent. Apparently he was expected to be the Italian representative in the Next Gen ATP Finals last November in Milan but was worn out and didn’t get out of the first round of the national playoff.
When Polansky is on court, many people notice his unique clothing – from Lululemon. “It’s quite soft,” he said about the material in the distinctive outfits. “To me quality-wise it’s one of the best brands. I was with Nike for many years and some of my (Lululemon) shirts from a year ago are the same as when I got them. They’re quite expensive but I’m lucky to have the connection with them out in Vancouver.”
Asked if he gets many compliments, he replied, “yeah – sometimes people don’t know what I’m wearing. Other times they don’t think it really looks like tennis clothes. I actually take my shorts in to get them hemmed even shorter – so maybe that’s why people comment on that too. I think they’re normally like eight or nine inches and I get them to five or six.”
Polansky also wears wrap-around Oakley prescription glasses. One fan watching on Tuesday wondered if they were for prescription or protection. “They’re prescription,” he said. “About a year ago I had a scratched cornea (from taking out his contact lenses) and the next morning I could barely open my eyes in the sun. I couldn’t wear my contacts for two weeks so I was practising with regular glasses and then I tried these. Once I tried them I haven’t gone back. I find my eyes just feel fresher. Sometimes my contacts move and they get blurry – but I’ve never had an issue with these. I love ’em.”
Félix Auger-Aliassime played after Polansky in conditions that were even slower as it got downright chilly at the no longer sunny Indian Wells Tennis Garden. But the 17-year-old from Montreal still gave the ball a mighty wallop in an impressive 6-4, 6-4 victory over Bjorn Fratangelo of the U.S. “The power of his hitting,” understated coach Fred Fontang of Tennis Canada, “even if the conditions are slow, he’s athletic and he can still make the ball move.”
He made it move so well that early in the second set he hit a few serves in excess of 130 mph – peaking at 134 mph.
Last week, Auger-Aliassime, currently ranked No. 169, was beaten 6-0, 6-4 in the opening round of the Oracle Challenger event at Indian Wells by No. 192-ranked Ricardo Ojeda Lara of Spain. It was a disappointing result, but Fontang had an explanation. “The problem was that he only got here on Friday because he was in Marseille (ATP 250) and the transition from indoor to outdoor was a little bit difficult.
“The conditions in Indian Wells are kind of special and on top of that he played Monday and only had two days of training. It was a little tight. But now we’ve had a good week of practice and his game has settled in.”
Speaking about Tuesday’s match which was switched from Stadium 3 to Stadium 4 in the early evening, Fontang commented, “Fratangelo didn’t play a great match from what I’ve seen of him. But Félix served well at the right times and maintained his aggressive play.
“It’s good that he won because he needs to play matches. It’s good to beat a player ranked around 100 (112). He was able to let his game flow today.”
There have lately been some up-and-down results from the 17-year-old Montrealer as he returns from a December knee injury. “With Félix, you have to be patient,” Fontang said. “He’s got great potential but there’s lots of work to do and tournaments to play. He has to plan properly and try to stay calm.”
The 47-year-old Frenchman who ranked as high as No. 59 as a player, obviously (along with Tennis Canada coach Guillaume Marx) enjoys his working relationship with the young prodigy. “He’s very respectful, he works hard and he’s interested in lots of things,” Fontang said about his charge, “so you can have a nice dialogue with him.”
In a bid to play in his first Masters 1000 main draw, Auger-Aliassime will take on No. 144-ranked Norbert Gombos. It will be Auger-Aliassime’s first meeting with the 27-year-old Slovak.
The two Canadian women in the qualifying, Carol Zhao of Richmond Hill, Ont. and Francoise Abanda, were beaten in the first round on Monday.
Zhao was lost 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-2 to No. 109-ranked Kristie Ahl, 25, of the U.S.
Abanda exited 6-3, 6-3 to 20th seed Richel Hogenkamp, 25, of the Netherlands, who was in turn beaten 6-3, 6-1 on Tuesday by No. 5 seed Madison Brengle of the U.S.
Genie Bouchard returns to tournament play on Wednesday for the first time since she reached the quarterfinals of an event in Taiwan City the week after the Australian Open and since her lawsuit with the United States Tennis Association was settled two weeks ago.
The recipient of a wild card, at No. 116 she will play a qualifier who is actually ranked higher than her at No. 100 – Sachia Vickery of the U.S. That match will be third on Stadium Court after an 11 a.m. (2 p.m. ET in Canada) start.
On Tuesday, she practised under the watchful eye of coach Harold Solomon on the most distant practice court on the grounds with Maria Sakkari of Greece.
On a practice court not far from where Bouchard was in action, Milos Raonic (above) played with Gilles Simon. He occasionally listened to the advice of his new coach – Goran Ivanisevic.
The draw for the men’s event was done on Tuesday and Raonic, who slipped into the No. 32 seeding position because of all the withdrawals, will start out, after a bye, against whoever wins a match pitting two qualifiers against each other.
In the third round, he could face fourth seed Sascha Zverev, the man he beat in five sets in the round-of-16 at Wimbledon last year.
With his ranking of No. 44 this week, Denis Shapovalov – above on Tuesday with his mother Tessa, coach Martin Laurendeau and fitness trainer Stefano De Pirro – has become the fourth highest-ranking Canadian in the history of the ATP rankings.
Here’s a list of the only Canadians who have ranked in the top-50 since the computer rankings were introduced in August, 1973:
In the main draw at the BNP Paribas Open, Shapovalov has drawn a qualifier as his first opponent and then could face No. 30 seed Pablo Cuevas of Uruguay in the second round. In the third round, his prospective opponent might be the last man to beat him– fifth-seeded Dominic Thiem who won their second-round match in Acapulco last week by a 6-2, 6-3 score.
Some Motel 6 guests aren’t always anxious to admit they stay at the discount hotel chain and have been known to employ a more up-market sounding euphemism – the “M6.” Discount doesn’t describe the rate at the North Palm Springs M6 pictured here. It’s about a half hours drive from the Indian Wells Tennis Garden but the going rate for this Saturday – jacked up by the demand of tennis lovers attending the BNP Paribas Open – is a far from discount at $229 for the night. With that hefty pricetag they will still “leave the light on for you.”
FEATURE PHOTO: Mauricio Paiz