Photo : Martin Sidorjak
Over the last week, much of the attention on Team Canada presented by Sobeys has been on the younger generation. That can be said for Canadian tennis as a whole.
But on Thursday at the Davis Cup Group Stage in Bologna, it was a member of the old guard stealing the spotlight.
At age 33, at the later stages of a season where he has barely played because of injury, Vasek Pospisil continued to prove that he is at his best when representing his country no matter what else has been going on.
About 16 hours after finishing a grueling, nearly-three-hour doubles victory in Canada’s sweep of Italy on Wednesday, Pospisil returned to the court on Thursday to play both singles and doubles.
And despite his rust, despite his pain, Pospisil did what he does best: Find ways to win Davis Cup matches.
“It’s a huge match for Canada. A huge match for this tie today,” said Pospisil after his trilling two-hour, 28-minute win over Leo Borg. “We’re obviously a lot closer to getting through our group stage but still more work has to be done.”
He later did said work with another doubles victory alongside Alexis Galarneau.
But by no means was it easy.
Pospisil spent just over four and a half hours on court on Thursday and at times seemed on the brink of physical collapse. And yet he stayed on his feet and kept fighting.
“I felt Leo played great tennis. Then physically I kind of lost my legs a little bit, probably a combination of the humidity and a little more stress for your country,” explained Pospisil. “There’s always more emotions so I think it took more energy out of me. I’m just glad I was able to get through it.”
His effort to give Canada the 1-0 lead was appreciated greatly by his teammates.
“Vasek led the way with an unbelievable win, facing adversity during his match,” said Gabriel Diallo, who followed Pospisil on court and clinched the tie for Canada in the second singles match. “He showed some great mental resilience, and it freed me up to play my game and take it to my opponent.”
2023 has not been kind to the 16-year veteran of the ATP Tour. Due to injuries, he had only played two tour-level matches and 16 across all levels heading into Davis Cup. He admitted on Monday at the team’s pre-event press conference that he may be running short on time in his career and then elaborated on his injuries after his win over Borg, his first tour-level victory of the season.
“I haven’t played a lot of matches this year. This was one of the few healthy matches that I’ve played,” said Pospisil. “I think the US Open was the first time I played a match with no pain this year.”
Read also: Galarneau, Diallo Step Up for Canada
But today, “I still have a bit of pain in the elbow but it’s the first time I’ve been able to actually play a match where it’s not affecting my body and my mind.”
“After a long break, it felt great to be able to play at a really good level.”
And boy did he ever.
Two victories in one day to help Canada sweep Sweden, putting them on the brink of a return to the knockout stage in Malaga, was classic Mr. Davis Cup.
The doubles victory, at which point Canada’s win in the tie was already assured but every match counts in the group stage, continued a dominant streak by the Canadian. Since the Davis Cup changed formats in 2019, he has an 8-3 record in doubles.
Not only that, over the last two Davis Cup cycles, he has not lost a completed doubles match. Pospisil has won six of the seven doubles matches he has played, with the lone loss coming via retirement when he pulled out in the first set against Serbia in the 2022 group stage (after Canada had already clinched their spot in the knockout round).
Four of those six wins, the four he won in 2022, all decided the tie. In three of them, rallied from a set down.
Talk about clutch.
Of course, while says of his body as “has been the biggest battle of my career,” he has no such qualms about his mental toughness.
“I feel like mentally I’ve always been a strong guy. From a very young age I worked really hard. I believe I have everything it takes to push through mentally.”
One would be hard-pressed to find a person who disagrees. Certainly when it comes to Davis Cup.
And a lot of that come from that mental strength and self-belief.
“I expect myself to win. That’s why I go on the court.”