Photo: AP Photo/Seth Wenig
It’s been quite the 24 hours for Canadian tennis. Less than a day after Denis Shapovalov completed a brilliant comeback win over Taylor Fritz in the third round of the US Open, Vasek Pospisil scored his own victory in five gruelling sets.
The Canadian No. 4 – fresh off an upset over countryman Milos Raonic in the second round – scored an even bigger scalp on Saturday afternoon in New York: No. 8 seed Roberto Bautista Agut, winning 7-5, 2-6, 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in three hours, 40 minutes.
Though much of the first set was played evenly between the two contrasting styles of tennis, Pospisil’s aggressive, net-attacking brand succeeded in giving him the break he needed in the final game of the set, setting him up for an early lead in the match.
Bautista Agut, however, is known to be one of the most consistent players on tour from the baseline and is oft overlooked as a serious contender at the biggest tournaments. He showed his class as a player in the next two sets, pummelling metronomic defensive shots from the back of the court to win the next two sets and put Pospisil on the brink of elimination.
Staring defeat in the face in the fourth set, Pospisil – following a quick visit from the trainer mid-way through the set – somehow managed to find a new gear. Serving at 3-3, the 30 year old from British Columbia would win six of the next seven games, breaking serve early in the fifth with a lusciously delicate forehand dropshot – and then once again at 4-2 in the final set with a stunning angled volley winner.
With ease, Pospisil served out the set, pulled off one of the biggest wins of his career at a Slam and reached the final 16 at the US Open for the first time.
He’ll face Australian No. 21 seed Alex de Minaur for a place in the quarter-finals.
Later in the day, Félix Auger-Aliassime took to the court against former junior rival Corentin Moutet, a player (and friend) that the Canadian has been playing since he was nine years old.
The match was a completely one-sided affair. Auger-Aliassime, feeling no hangover from his dominant win over Andy Murray in the second round, was at his aggressive best, dictating play against the southpaw Frenchman with his forehand and capitalizing on some uncharacteristic errors from Moutet throughout the first two sets, in which he dropped just a single game.
Although play was slightly tighter in the third set as Moutet upped his level, Auger-Aliassime was able to halt any surges in his opponent’s momentum thanks to his speed and power off the ground. After less than two hours, FAA finished off the match, winning 6-1, 6-0, 6-4 to reach the fourth round – and making a bit of history.
Not only is this the first time three Canadian men are into the fourth round of a Grand Slam (singles), but with his win Auger-Aliassime becomes the first player born in the 2000s to reach the fourth round of the Slam.
Up next: either No. 2 seed Dominic Thiem or 2014 champion Marin Cilic.