AO 2015: Raonic

It was a banner Tuesday for Canadian men as Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil made it to the second round of the Australian Open. Both ended up playing in Hisense Arena (above). When matches on Court 6 dragged on and on, the tournament referee elected to move Pospisil – Sam Querrey to the bigger venue.

Raonic relied on his trademark tiebreak efficiency to down qualifier Illya Marchenko 7-6(3), 7-6(3), 6-3 while Pospisil hung in a roller coaster match with Querrey before finally pulling it out 6-3, 6-7(5), 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

The match had all kinds of twists and turns – and was actually entertaining for the first half as the pair engaged in up-tempo rallies. But the second half was mostly serve and big shots – a lot of hit-and-miss tennis.

A simple resume of the match was Pospisil started off with the hot hand, winning four games out of the gate, taking the first set convincingly and looking like he might win the second.

Then the second set swung on a couple of shots – Pospsil hit a smash right back to Querrey after he had established a mini-break lead early in the tiebreak and paid the price as a backhand reflex shot from the 6-foot-6 American flashed back past him. Querrey put an exclamation mark on the second set when he rocketed an inside/out forehand winner to get the mini-break at 5-all and then finished off matters with an easy overhead put-away to take the set.

AO 2015: Pospisil

The air then seemed to go out of Pospisil’s balloon and he missed a forehand volley wide to drop his serve in the first game of the third set. With that Querrey had serious “mojo” and soon closed out the set 6-2.

He looked likely to win the fourth as Pospisil spent time at changeovers stretching by raising his knees to his chest. But remarkably with Querrey trailing 5-4 and serving, Pospisil uncorked three greats shots, combined with a Querrey unforced error, to break serve, take the game and the set and force a decider.

In the fifth, Querrey saved a break point with a 202 km/hr serve in the second game and both players settled into a rhythm of alternating routine service holds.

It carried on until Querrey served trailing 5-4 – and had an absolute nightmare game.

He botched a backhand volley on the first point, flinched a backhand wide on the second, belted a forehand long on the third before Pospisil missed with a nervy forehand into the net at triple-match point. It was the last shot he would have to hit, Querrey double-faulted long on the second match point and the three-hour and three-minute wild ride was over.

AO 2015: Pospisil

Pospisil celebrated by giving a couple of towels to vocal supporters at one end, one of his shirts to a fan seated courtside, and then finished by flinging another six or seven towels to spectators located not far from his courtside chair.

“I had a dip in the second set and then things turned,” Pospisil said. “I started finding my legs and my game again midway through the fourth set.

“I wasn’t there physically or mentally in the third set. And then midway through the fourth I started playing well and being very focused.

“For a set and a half I wasn’t putting up much of a fight. I’m not sure (at the end) how much of it was (Querrey’s) nerves. But for sure from my side I was a different player.”

About his stretching at the end changes in the last two sets, he explained, “just some general fatigue. More prevention for my back…to keep my glutes loose.”

Pospisil, who can perspire with the best of them, said about his numerous shirt changes during the match, “it’s not really a secret, in humid conditions I tend to get drained physically. When it’s dry I can play ten sets. When it’s humid, I have more difficulties. But today I managed it well.”

AO 2015: Pospisil

Pospisil will face No. 64-ranked Paolo Lorenzi in the second round on Thursday.

“He’s a tough player,” Pospisil said about the 33-year-old Italian. “He’s experienced.”

Canadian Davis Cup captain Martin Laurendeau was thrilled with the outcome. “I’m really happy for Vasek because I know how hard he worked in the off-season,” Laurendeau said.

He added about the match, “I think Querrey hit a wall in the fifth set, he wasn’t running balls down in the fourth and fifth sets. Vasek hit a wall after losing the second set tiebreak. But he stabilized in the fourth set and made more (service) returns than Querrey in the fifth set. I think Querrey panicked a little bit.”

AO 2015: Raonic

The story of the Raonic match was once again largely about his tiebreak mastery. He had a 39-13 record in tiebreaks in 2014 and is off to a 7-1 start this year after two in his three-set victory over qualifier Marchenko on Tuesday.

Raonic won both tiebreaks against the No. 144-ranked Ukrainian in impressive fashion.

The key to the tiebreak in the first set, which had been very close and with Marchenko holding the only break point in the first 12 games, came at 3-3 with the Ukrainian serving. Raonic belted a screaming cross-court forehand service return winner and that gave him the separation he needed to finish off the tiebreak – and ultimately to go on and win the match against a big-hitting, un-intimidated opponent.

Asked about the thinking behind that big body blow at 3-all, Raonic explained, “that’s what I go for. I wasn’t necessarily going for the line. But it was hit to his forehand side because it was the first time in the match I went back (further) on a second serve return. So, it was definitely to put some pressure on him and also to make him look at a different trajectory.”

About the match as a whole, he summed up, “it was what it needed to be, especially with how well I served. I probably should have stepped up and taken a few more risks on the return games. I felt at some points I got a little monotone with my game and I sort of stooped into a not-so-effective game plan on the return side.”

Raonic’s serving, as he mentioned, was top notch, and the numbers confirm that – he made 73 per cent of first serves, won 91 per cent of first serve points and 64 per cent of second serve points.

The only area of concern, and this is not new, would be his return of serve. He had only two break points and didn’t convert one until 1-0 in the third set. But on that particular point, he made a terrific backhand get, floating back a ball at full stretch that looped high and landed near the baseline. A thoroughly frustrated Marchenko proceeded to miss a forehand into the net.

 AO 2015: Raonic

Next for Raonic will be No. 56-ranked Donald Young of the USA, the former junior phenom who is now 25 years old.

“I know Donald because I’m a year younger than him,” Raonic said. “He was sort of the poster boy of the way everybody sort of wanted their career to go. I remember, I think it was Junior Davis Cup at the time, Key Biscayne. I was playing under-14. I would go over to watch him play against (Philip) Bester and (Peter) Polansky. I definitely followed him because there were a lot of tags and labels on him.”

Raonic was the opposite, anything but a junior standout but someone who would mature later and became a major player on the men’s tour. Asked if he always had faith that he would eventually break through, Raonic said, “the coach (Casey Curtis) I worked with always believed in me a lot. I necessarily didn’t always see it that way. But my goals, my ambitions have developed pretty much every year I go through.”

Young was candid in an interview on Tuesday about how things have worked out as a pro – his highest career ranking being No. 38 in 2012.

Looking back, what would he do differently? “Maybe I’d work a little harder,” he admitted. “At one point I was far ahead and that would have helped me to stay there. But you figure if you keep going, it will stay that way.”

Young and Raonic played twice in 2014, with Raonic winning 6-4, 7-5 in Washington and then with difficulty in Basel (his first tournament after battling a virus) by a 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(2) score.

To stir up a little a controversy and have a little fun, a Canadian reporter informed Raonic about his compatriot Genie Bouchard’s remark on Monday that he was too obsessed with his hair. Raonic hesitated, nearly taking the bait, but eventually deferred, “next question…really.”


AO 2015: Bouchard

It’s same time, same station for Genie Bouchard at the Australian Open on Wednesday. As with her first match on Monday against Anna-Lena Friedsam of Germany, Bouchard returns to Margaret Court Arena and a 7 p.m. start (3 a.m. EDT in Canada) for her match against Kiki Bertens of Netherlands.

Speaking with a Dutch reporter, he said that the No. 72-ranked Bertens really believes she can beat Bouchard. A big hitter and a big woman, Bertens spent eight weeks training in the off-season and has shed about 10 kilos. She says she’s playing the best tennis of her life.

But she has never beaten a Top 10, or Top 20 opponent, so it would be a surprise if she is able to de-rail the woman who currently occupies the No. 7 spot.



Undoubtedly, this is a bit of false advertising – or is it? This young woman plies her trade in the roadways around St. Kilda Beach.