The outcome was all too familiar for Vasek Pospisil fans – the personable Vancouverite beaten by a player many thought he would handle, especially on the grass courts of Wimbledon.
Tuesday in his opening-round match, Pospisil was anything but opportunistic and lost 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 to Albert Ramos-Vinolas. The No. 36-ranked Spaniard is hardly a Pete Sampras or Roger Federer – not even a Lleyton Hewitt – on grass but he was good enough to end Pospisil’s hopes a year after the Canadian No. 2 reached the quarter-finals at the greatest of all tennis tournaments.
It’s possible to dissect many aspects of the match but break points converted pretty well tells the story – Ramos-Vinolas was 3/3 while Pospisil was a lamentable 1/11.
“I don’t like returning his serve, it’s a tricky serve, especially on the ad side,” Pospisil said about the left-handed Spaniard who ousted Milos Raonic in the fourth round of the French Open last month. “It’s a tricky side for me. When I had the break point on the deuce side I broke. But it’s not only that, it’s a little bit of confidence, momentum…”
More generally, Pospisil added, “I didn’t play my best. I played like 70 or 80 per cent, which some days is enough to win but today he played a bit better. Maybe he’s confident too and had a good French Open (reaching the quarter-finals).”
During his post-match media conference with four Canadian reporters, he had to be asked the question that countless Pospisil fans have been asking: “What’s wrong with Vasek?”
“I just answer that I’m just not on a good path right now,” Pospisil said. “I’ve been ranked 25 to 50 for three years straight, around that range, looking for that next thing to get me to the Top 20. I was really trying hard to find that thing and where I am is that I went away from some of my strengths and then I lost a little bit of momentum that I built last year.”
Pospisil’s career highlights include a range of successes: a heroic Davis Cup performance – two singles and a doubles win – in Ramat Hasharon, Israel, in September 2011, to lead Canada into the 2012 elite World Group.
Then there was a semifinal at Rogers Cup in Montreal (losing 7-6 in the third set to Raonic) in 2013, winning the Wimbledon doubles title with Jack Sock in 2014 followed by a runner-up finish to Raonic at the Washington ATP 500 event a few weeks later and finally that eventful run to the Wimbledon quarters a year ago where, weary from almost 10 hours of singles and doubles two days earlier, he acquitted himself commendably in a 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 Centre Court loss to Andy Murray.
Pospisil reached a career–high ranking of No. 25 in January 2014, and has finished the past three years ranked No. 32, No. 53 and No. 39.
But so far in 2016 he is a modest 5-17, a record that is not in sync with the potential many people believe he has.
“I’m playing better than I ever have in singles,” Pospisil insisted, “especially the last month or so. I can feel it when I’m practising that I’m better but I haven’t been able to make that transform to the court the last few weeks.”
Looking back, he added, “I’m a better player than I was in 2013 for sure – there I was very confident, like in a good state. That changes a lot of things too – doesn’t mean I won’t get back there. I know I will.”
About having to operate with a ranking that could roughly be in the mid-90s following Wimbledon and his loss of the 360 points he earned 12 months ago, he said, “it’ll take a little longer for me to build my way back up. But I feel like I’m about to switch. Almost every year there’s a moment when you feel like you’re going to start playing well and I feel like that’s coming up soon. I still have four or five tournaments where I’ll be in, because of my ranking…Rogers Cup and Cincinnati and US Open…where I can make some ground up.”
Pospisil also plans to play Washington the week before Rogers Cup in Toronto, where he will partner Raonic in doubles to get ready for the Rio Olympics.
The media conference had a lighter moment near the end when he was asked if he planned to play mixed doubles with Genie Bouchard (entry deadline 11 a.m. on Wednesday London time) at Wimbledon.
“No, definitely not,” he replied. “I mean unless she just begs me or something. (laughter). I’m not going to say no – but no. (more laughter). You know what I mean but don’t be shocked if you see me in the draw with her – in case I speak with my coach and we decide something completely different than we decided before.
“That was the plan. I’ll just go home as soon as we’re done (with Sock) with doubles – be it next Sunday (July 10th) or tomorrow.”
Summing up his current predicament, Pospisil said. “I’m not worried, just disappointed with the year I’ve had so far. I’m not panicking, not worried. I’m still really happy to be at Wimbledon – I have great memories here. It’s not like I’m in depression right now (smiles). Tomorrow morning I might be – it’s always worse the second day.”
Bouchard on her way
Genie Bouchard and Magdalena Rybarikova, in the picture above, were playing the last point of their opening-round match before rain interrupted play for the day on Tuesday.
So Bouchard takes a 6-3, 2-1 lead into Wednesday’s resumption which will be played on the same Court 12 following a first–round match between Britain’s Heather Watson and Annika Beck of Germany. That means (weather permitting) it should be at roughly 8 a.m. or 8:30 a.m. EDT in Canada.
On Tuesday, Bouchard lost her serve in the opening game of the match but soon found herself ahead 4-1 in the first set.
She was striking the ball well but there was no doubt that the No. 94-ranked Slovak was hampered physically. She has retired from matches in four of her last six events and (as seen above) had wraps or straps on her right knee and ankle and on her left wrist.
There were several times when she pulled up when completing runs for shots – or did not run at all.
Things can certainly change overnight, but Bouchard definitely seems to be headed toward a second–round meeting with the winner of the match between No. 16 seed Johanna Konta of Britain and Monica Puig of Puerto Rico. By chance, Konta is poised exactly as Bouchard is – she led Puig 6-1, 2-1 when her match was also stopped shortly after 4:30 p.m.
Raonic vs. Seppi in round two
Andreas Seppi has a 14-11 record at Wimbledon, including a best finish of the round-of-16 in 2013.
Milos Raonic’s career record at Wimbledon is 11-5, highlighted by a semifinal two years ago.
He also won the only previous meeting between the two during a Davis Cup World Group quarter-final in Vancouver in 2013.
The two know each other well because they have experienced, Italian coaches who have worked together for many years.
Ahead of the match-up, Seppi, 32 and ranked No. 45, joked about Raonic’s current coaching set-up that includes Riccardo Piatti, Carlos Moya and John McEnroe, “I don’t know why he needs 19 chefs…but every player can do what he wants.”
Seppi has been with the same coach, Massimo Sartori, since he was eight years old.
The winner of the Raonic – Seppi match will play whoever emerges from the second-round encounter between No. 27 seed Jack Sock and Robin Haase of the Netherlands.
The match is scheduled to be third one on No. 1 Court, which would be somewhere between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. EDT in Canada.
Seen at the All England
Rogers Cup (Toronto) tournament director Karl Hale, prominent Toronto sports medicine doctor Michael Clarfield and some guy named Nestor had a chat on–site on Tuesday.
That Nestor guy won the 89th doubles title of his career on Saturday in Nottingham alongside partner Dominic Inglot of Britain. He accomplished that at age 43 – but still has a few years to go to catch up to John McEnroe who won the San Jose doubles title with Jonas Bjorkman at 47 in 2006.
People get a little carried away every year during the Wimbledon fortnight. This year that includes Tony, a London taxi driver. On Monday he picked up a pair of Canadian visitors in his black cab with his head semi-disguised as a Slazenger tennis ball – anything to distract the home folks from the remains of the leave vote last week!