Vasek Pospisil takes to Wimbledon’s Centre Court, the greatest stage in tennis, for his quarter-final against Andy Murray on Wednesday at 1 p.m. (8 a.m. EDT in Canada).
His only previous Grand Slam event main stadium singles match was in Rod Laver Arena in the second round of the 2014 Australian Open when he defeated the host nation’s Matthew Ebden 3-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(9), 6-1 in a night match when he battled through a serious back issue that wound up affecting him for months.
So, he has an experience, and a successful one at that, playing against an opponent supported by a partisan crowd.
But the difference between Ebden, currently ranked No. 148, and the world No. 3 and 2013 Wimbledon champion Murray is stratospheres.
Pospisil is currently No. 56 and will rise to about No. 30 even if he loses to Murray – and that’s certainly what the London bookies expect. You have to lay 1/19 (19 pounds to earn one) if you back Murray, while a ‘punt’ on Pospisil goes off at 14/1.
Those are prohibitive odds but Pospisil truly has nothing to lose. He’s playing with house money because just eight days before Wimbledon started he had to withdraw from a match – 6-4, 4-6 RET – against Marcel Granollers in Nottingham with a troubleome back issue.
“We’ve come back from a long way away,” his coach Fred Fontang said this week. “It’s (physio) Andres (Vial) who has really done a great job because Vasek slipped in Nottingham and jammed his back against Granollers. The next day we wondered how we were going to be able to train that week. That was on Sunday the week before Wimbledon. On Monday we didn’t do anything because it was still tight and Tuesday it was finally better. Considering all that, getting to the Wimbledon quarters has been a nice surprise.”
(In the picture at the top – left to right – that’s Fontang, Vasek with brother Tom behind, and Vial, a Chilean, walking off after a practice on the Aorangi courts on Tuesday. They are looking at Murray who had just come onto the adjacent court after Pospisil had a relaxed hit with Fontang. Pospisil and Murray exchanged waves – as did Fontang below, although he’s probably greeting his French compatriot and Murray’s coach, Amélie Mauresmo.)
Pospisil deserves a reward at a Grand Slam because he was hardly in shape to play the French Open where he lost in the first round to Joao Sousa of Portugal. Three weeks earlier in Madrid, he stepped on his partner Jack Sock’s foot and suffered a grade two ankle sprain. The score in that match was 6-2, 1-0 for Sock and Pospisil – and ironically it was Granollers again on the other side of the net, with partner Marc Lopez.
Through his four matches at Wimbledon – wins over qualifier Vincent Millot, Fabio Fognini, James Ward and Viktor Troicki – Pospisil has repeatedly talked about having a new attitude and approach. Some of that is in the little notebook he sets down on a chair beside him courtside. “It’s just reminders and pointers, things I should be looking at during the match,” he explained somewhat reluctantly. “So that will change from match to match.”
About his maturation just weeks after his 25th birthday, the guitar-playing and singing Pospisil said, “I’ve been working to be more clutch mentally in the big moments. I feel like I’m stepping up my game and more ambitious than ever right now.”
All that will have to max out against Murray (above with a pregnant Mauresmo and co-coach Jonas Bjorkman yesterday) who leads their head-to-head 3-0.
“Vasek has played him two times this year and also in 2013 in Vienna,” Fontang said. “In Rotterdam he served for the set in the second set, and so we were able to see the things that could give Murray trouble – a couple of possibilities. But it’s a Grand Slam quarter-final and he has the experience and he’s playing on Centre Court at home. But Vasek is full of confidence so he’ll give it a shot.”
Pospisil looked pretty relaxed and not too much the worse for wear during his half-hour hit on Tuesday. But many people wonder about the 10 sets – singles and doubles – he spent on court Monday totaling five hours and 58 minutes, and the toll it will take.
“It’s nice to see a serve-and-volley player, a guy who comes forward, doing so well,” said Montreal native Greg Rusedski who reached No. 4 in the world while representing Britain. “But I’m wondering how much tennis he has left in him because playing 10 sets doesn’t really help you playing against the best or the second best returner on the planet…and Murray likes a target. It’s going to be a difficult one for him.
“But he’s in a nice position where he can throw the kitchen sink at Murray. He’s got to be aggressive and take lots of risks. It’s good to be in a situation where the expectations aren’t there. He can enjoy the experience – his first quarter-final at a major. Hopefully he’ll learn from it. I can’t see him coming through tomorrow but it’s been a fabulous run for him.”
Pospisil reached a career-high ranking of No. 25 in January 2014. Much was expected of him at the time, partly because he has such an entertaining game to watch. His fans are now hoping for another run up the rankings. And even if it isn’t aided by a win against Murray, the big-match experience should serve him well. And if he serves well – super well – as he has at the end of both his previous matches, the unthinkable – a Wimbledon semifinal – could actually confirm the adage “Anything is Pospisil.”
Nestor into mixed quarters
Daniel Nestor and partner Kristina Mladenovic of France reached the quarter-finals of the mixed doubles on Tuesday with a 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-3 victory over Cara Black of Zimbabwe and Juan-Sebastian Cabal of Colombia.
The match could have finished more quickly because Nestor and Mladenovic were up 4-2 in the second-set tiebreak, and also led 3-1 in the third set.
Next for the No. 8 seeds, who won Wimbledon in 2013, will be the winner of top seeds Mike Bryan and Bethanie Mattek-Sands versus Raluca Olaru of Romania and Michael Venus of New Zealand.
After Tuesday evening’s match, Nestor posed for a picture with his parents Anna and Ray.
One up and one down in juniors
Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., advanced to the third round of the Wimbledon boys event on Tuesday with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Emil Reinberg of the U.S.
The rangy, left-handed Shapovolov, 16, was in control all the way, using his loopy forehand and big serve to neutralize the 18-year-old American.
“I really like it,” Shapovalov said about playing on grass. “The ball doesn’t really bounce high so it’s good for my serve.”
Shapovalov will next face the No. 10 seed William Blumberg of the U.S. In the first round, Shapovalov upset the No. 5 seed Seong Chan Hong of Korea 7-5, 4-6, 6-3.
Charlotte Robillard-Millette of Blainville, Que., seeded No. 7 in the junior girls event, was beaten 6-2, 7-5 by Sofya Zhuk of Russia.
Robillard-Millette, 16, had spoken about tightness in her hip area after her opening-round win last Saturday, and she had a wrap on her right thigh and an ankle brace on her left foot.
On Tuesday, Robillard-Millette started slowly and was quickly down 5-0 to the 16-year-old Muscovite.
There was a short break (above) for a light shower at 5-2 in the opening set and then a longer break when Robillard-Millette served for the second set at 5-4.
Later her coach, Ralph Platz of Tennis Canada, said Robillard-Millette wasn’t as sharp when play resumed and he was disappointed she was unable to force a third set.
“Charlotte has played more on clay in one week than she’s played on grass,” Platz pointed out about her inexperience on grass.
He has a lot of belief in the left-handed Robillard-Millette. “I’ve been with Tennis Canada for eight years and I think I’m really fortunate to be working with a player like Charlotte,” he said.
In girls doubles, Katherine Sebov of Toronto and Bianca Vanessa Adreescu of Mississauga, Ont., won their opening match 6-2, 6-0 over Georgina Axon and Holly Hutchison of Britain.
Walking along St. Mary’s Walk at Wimbledon on Tuesday, this group appeared in front of me. At first I just thought it was Roger Federer’s coach Severin Luthi and his family. But a closer looked revealed and that Luthi and a young woman were indeed shepherding Roger’s two twin daughters Charlene and Myla, who turn six on July 23rd.