Photo: AP Photo/Seth Wenig
After two consecutive years of all-Canadian match-ups in the first round of the US Open (both times Denis Shapovalov versus Félix Auger-Aliassime), Canadian tennis fans were able to avoid bad draw luck this year – at least until the second round.
On Thursday afternoon at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Centre in New York City, Canadian No. 2 Milos Raonic took to the court against Canadian No. 4 Vasek Pospisil for a place in the third round – and it was Pospisil who prevailed in four tight sets, 6-7(1), 6-3, 7-6(4), 6-3 after three hours and 18 minutes.
The first set was played at the finest of margins, as Pospisil had a look at some early break chances on Raonic’s opening service game, but was quickly denied as last week’s Cincinnati Open finalist tuned into his storied service rhythm. Neither player was able to generate many inroads on their return games, and, perhaps somewhat predictably, headed to a tiebreak to decide who would get the early advantage.
It was Raonic, ultimately, who would play the better tiebreak, earning an early mini-break that he would ride into a smooth 7-6(1) first-set victory.
Raonic had plenty of momentum going into the second, but Pospisil, ranked No. 94 this week but playing well above that ranking in 2020, was able to turn the tides after a quick medical timeout gave him the wake-up needed to break his compatriot’s serve.
Soon enough, the second set was Pospisil’s.
In the third set, both players managed to generate break point opportunities on each others’ serves, all of which were ultimately snuffed out courtesy of pin-point serving and, if a return was able to get in play, aggressive tactics with both of their world class forehands.
The ensuring tiebreak would ultimately hinge on a single point – an untimely Raonic double fault – which was enough for British Columbia’s Pospisil to secure a two-sets-to-one lead over his Canadian rival.
A double fault would be Raonic’s final undoing in the fourth set as well. In the eighth game, after missing several of his potent first-serve deliveries, his 11th double fault of the match would give Pospisil the only break point he’d need to serve for the match.
Minutes later, victory was Vasek’s.
The No. 4-ranked Canadian officially levels his tour-level head-to-head with Raonic at 2-2, and reaches the third round of the US Open for the first time in his career. For a place in the second week, Pospisil next faces Roberto Bautista Agut, against whom he owns a 0-3 career head-to-head.
Earlier in the day, Leylah Annie Fernandez put up a valiant effort against No. 2 seed and reigning Australian Open champion Sofia Kenin, but was unable to find the right balance of aggression and defence to overcome her cerebral, counterpunching opponent.
Despite only dropping serve once in the first set, she was unable to make a dent in Kenin’s serve. The second set was more of the same, as she was able to compete hard in the groundstrokes department but again struggled to make inroads on her own return games.
After one hour and 21 minutes, the 17-year-old Canadian (who turns 18 on Sunday), was closed out on an unceremonious double fault. Although she won’t be pleased with the loss, there is a silver lining – her efforts this week in New York, which include a first-round win over former World No. 2 Vera Zvonareva, will see her rise into the WTA’s Top 100 when the rankings are released in two weeks.
Onward and upward for Fernandez!