It was a day that Vasek Pospisil is unlikely to soon forget – spending a grand total of five hours and 58 minutes on court at the grandest tournament in the world while achieving a major career milestone.
That happened when he became only the second Canadian (with Milos Raonic) in 100 years to reach a Wimbledon (or any Grand Slam) quarter-final by winning his fourth-round match 4-6, 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-3, 6-3 over Viktor Troicki of Serbia.
The second segment of the nearly six hours spent on court – actually three hours and 19 minutes of it – was in a doubles third-round match that he and partner Jack Sock lost to Jamie Murray of Britain and Australian John Peers 6-3, 7-6(6), 6-7(5), 3-6, 8-6.
That one hurt all the more because Pospisil and Sock were the defending Wimbledon champions. But both have insisted over and over since that unexpected victory at Wimbledon last year that singles is their priority.
They gave a max effort in doubles (near court above), partly spurred on by a controversy in the third set when they thought a ball had touched Peer’s racquet but the Aussie claimed he wasn’t sure whether he had or not.
“I think the energy was pretty low and it’s also tough to come back after a singles match and that kind of changed it for us,” he said about the dispute over Peer’s touch. “We started playing better, and playing more like what we are used to playing. That gave us a chance at the end to come back and win it almost.”
As the final few points were being played, Jamie Murray’s brother Andy was in the main interview room after his four-set win over Ivo Karlovic to set up a meeting with Pospisil in the quarters. There was a monitor with scores on it that Murray could see from the interview dais and he interrupted an answer about Aussie Nick Kyrgios and his rocky relationship with the media to say, raising both fists shoulder height, “sorry, my brother just won.”
The match with Murray, the 2013 Wimbledon champion, will be a step up from anyone Pospisil has played so far – with Troicki, at No. 24, being his toughest opposition following wins over No. 213 French qualifier Vincent Millot, No. 28 Fabio Fognini and No. 111 James Ward.
“I’m through into the quarter-finals against Pospisil, which is a good opportunity for me,” Murray said. “I’ve prepared very well for the event. The way I played the last couple of matches (in winning) at Queen’s (straight-sets victories over Troicki and Kevin Anderson) was very positive for me. Some of the tennis I’ve played this week has been very positive.”
Murray and Pospisil have played three times and the world No. 3 leads 3-0.
2015: Indian Wells – Murray 6-1, 6-3.
2015: Rotterdam – Murray 6-3, 7-5.
2014: Vienna – Murray 6-4, 6-4.
“It’s going to be a tough one,” Pospisil said about playing Murray. “He’s one of the Big Four, as they say. I think I’m serving well. I’m playing well and I will have a good day of rest tomorrow (Tuesday). I’ll have my hands full and I have to go out there and play to the best of my abilities.”
Playing Troicki on 1,065-capacity Court 12 on Monday, Pospisil served better and better as the match went on. Against Ward on Saturday, he won 19 consecutive points on serve in the fifth and final set. It was much the same on Monday – this time he won the point all 15 times he made his first serve – 20 of 24 service points in the set overall.
Also, as the match progressed, he began to get the better of forehand exchanges with the Serb, hitting with great depth and aggression.
After a lot of patchy play by Pospisil in the first two sets – including letting a lobbish-type shot through the middle go that landed good and gave Troicki a decisive mini-break in the second-set tiebreak at 4-4 – he really stepped it up and got his first break at 4-all in the third set.
Troicki lost that set and then played a poor and fateful game to lose his serve in the opening game of the fourth set. Pospisil had seized the momentum but there was one last pressure point – when he lost the first two points on his serve at 3-all in the final set. Troikcki would later rue that missed opportunity – but it was more that the opening was immediately snuffed out by two consecutive Pospisil service winners, a bold forehand cross-court winner and a backhand unforced error by the 29-year-old Serb.
Two games later, Pospisil again asserted himself, getting the break he needed, capped with another outright forehand winner.
A very telling stat was the baseline winners – both ended the match win 15. But Pospisil dominated the category when it counted most – 10-2 over the last two sets.
“In the third set also I thought I had everything under control,” Troicki said, “but then he was switching his (service) return position. He stepped back a lot, and that made me maybe go more for the serve and risk it more. He got to return better off the back of the court and took his chances.
“He was serving unbelievable. I didn’t have many chances on his serve. His percentage was very high off of the first serve. He didn’t have like unbelievable numbers of aces (12), but he had great percentage of serves and great angles.
“In the end he played more aggressively, took his chances and played more aggressive than me.”
Pospisil said the adjustments he made were to temper attack mode and to vary the serve return positions as Troicki mentioned.
“I’m more experienced now, I turned 25 a couple of weeks ago,” he said with a big smile. “I know it’s a long match even if you’re two sets down. The last set is always the toughest one to win. I knew that and I knew it would be tough for him to win that last one as long as I stayed in it and showed my presence and showed that I was there. That’s what I tried to do.”
Asked what he was most proud of in his player, his coach Fred Fontang said, “his courage. He came back from two sets down – even in doubles they didn’t ever give up. He’s been working really hard and this is a really great reward for him.”
The big test will now come on Wednesday on Centre Court. Pospisil has repeatedly said he likes the big stage and the big occasion, even in a hostile environment. “It really doesn’t faze me too much playing in front of crowds that are against me.”
About the ultimate in tennis, Centre Court, Wimbledon, he said, “I had one Centre Court experience (the 2014 doubles final with Sock against Bob and Mike Bryan) and it was a great one.
“I realize that it’s going to be a tough feat to accomplish – to beat Andy here at Wimbledon, his home court. I will try and take the memories of last year and my good form this past week.”
A year ago, the scratch pairing of Pospisil and Sock were the darlings of Centre Court, and had the crowd’s support. This time, against Murray, the match will likely be later in the afternoon when British television watchers can see it after work.
There’s a fervour in Centre Court when Murray plays there in a big match – exactly as there was more than a decade ago when Tim Henman played in the late stages of The Championships. Pospisil’s love of the grand stage will be tested but his past, especially in Davis Cup away and at home, shows that he is usually up to the occasion.
Nestor/Paes out in doubles
Daniel Nestor and his Indian partner Leander Paes were beaten 6-3, 7-5, 3-6, 2-6, 6-3 in the men’s doubles by the eighth-seeded tandem of Bruno Soares of Brazil and Alexander Peya of Austria.
Nestor and Paes, seeded 11th, were down by two sets and 1-0 (a break of the Nestor serve), before turning things around and leading 5-1 in the third set.
They got it to five sets but Nestor was broken in the sixth game and Paes in the eighth to end the two-hour and 42-minute contest.
Things could have been easier for Nestor (fixing his grip tape above) if he and Paes had capitalized on four set points in the second set.
The day wasn’t a total loss for Nestor. He and partner Kristina Mladenovic of France rallied for a 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 victory in their opening round (after a bye) mixed doubles match over Johanna Konta and Ken Skupski of Britain.
Seeded No. 8, Nestor and Mladenovic will now meet the ninth-seeded team of Cara Black of Zimbabwe and Juan-Sebastian Cabal of Colombia.
Nestor and Mladenovic won the Wimbledon mixed title in 2013.
Shapovalov wins in juniors
Denis Shapovalov, a qualifier, reached the second round of the Wimbledon junior boys on Monday with a 7-5, 4-6, 6-3 victory over No. 5 seed Seong Chan Chong of Korea.
The recent winner of the Canadian junior national indoor title, Shapovalov, from Richmond Hill, Ont., turned 16 in April.
In the second round he will face Emil Reinberg of the U.S.
Two other Canadians in action on Monday were not as successful – Alejandro Tabilo (above) of Toronto was ousted 7-5, 6-1 by Marc Polmans of Australia in the junior boys event and Bianca Vanessa Andreescu of Mississauga, Ont., lost 6-3, 6-1 to ninth-seeded Sofia Kenin of the U.S. in girls singles.
On Tuesday, seventh-seeded Charlotte Robillard-Millette of Blainville, Que., will play unseeded Sofya Zhuk of Russia in the second round.
This is the quaint old machine used to keep the grass at Wimbledon at its regulation 8 mm length. It was photographed in action on ‘silent Sunday’, which was on July 5 this year.