Vasek at indian wells backhand

Photo: BNP Paribas Open

Vasek Pospisil earned his first Masters 1000 victory since the 2019 Rolex Shangai Masters, and it was a doozy. In the first round of the BNP Paribas Open, the 31-year-old Vernon-native edged out wildcard J.J. Wolf in a three-set thriller by a score of 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

Pospisil only kept 55 per cent of his first serves in play but won 76 per cent of those points – including 11 aces. His win sets up a meeting with compatriot and tournament ninth-seed Denis Shapovalov in the second round.

The court was tilted in favour of the Canadian in the opening set as Pospisil broke Wolf’s very first service game to go up 2-0. Pospisil looked great on his serve, up until an ugly service game in the ninth where he failed to register a single point and gifted Wolf a game back. Still up 5-4, Pospisil managed to break Wolf’s serve in the 10th game to take the first set 6-4. The Canadian converted both of his break point chances while the American capitalized on his lone opportunity.

Break points weren’t as easily converted in the second set as Wolf fended off two in the fourth game and Pospisil managed to save three in the seventh. After Pospisil fired off four straight aces in the seventh game, it seemed that the momentum was back on his side. However, Wolf found a way to crack Pospisil in the ninth game, took the break advantage, and eventually clinched the set in the 10th game.

In the third and deciding set, Wolf got off to an early 3-1 lead while a frustrated Pospisil looked all out of sorts. A broken racquet later and Pospisil somehow regained his rhythm and won four of the next five games to go up 5-4. Wolf had to hold his serve to stay in the match but wasn’t able to get it done against the determined veteran.

A perfect start in doubles

Gabriela Dabrowski was the first Canadian to take the stage at the BNP Paribas Open on Wednesday. Her usual partner, Luisa Stefani, had to sit out of this year’s event due to the knee injury she suffered in their semi-final match at the US Open in early September. Dabrowski had to find another teammate for the year’s last WTA 1000 event and fittingly paired up with Stefani’s former partner, American Hayley Carter.

Dabrowski and Carter faced American Kaitlyn Christian and Erin Routliffe of New Zealand in their first-round contest. The duo entered the tournament as the No. 6 seeds and backed up their seeding right out the gate. In the opening game, they won all four points on their opponents’ serve to get the early break advantage. The Canadian-American team went on to convert all five of their break point chances in the match and won the battle 6-4, 6-4.

Also on Wednesday, Sharon Fichman – who was dealing with a shoulder injury – made only her second appearance since Wimbledon. Alongside usual partner Giuliana Olmos, the tandem did not miss a beat and ousted Russian Daria Kasatkina and Estonian Anett Kontaveit in a 6-3, 6-4 victory. If the Canadian-Mexican duo win their next two matches, they could potentially face a new, young team in the semi-finals, Canadian Leylah Fernandez and American Coco Gauff.

On Thursday, Fernandez and Gauff made their team debut and cruised past Irina-Camelia Begu and Renata Voráčová by a score of 6-1, 6-1. The teenagers won 83 per cent of points on their first serves – including three aces – and converted 6/9 break point opportunities. Fernandez and Gauff will look to keep the momentum going throughout the tournament in both their singles and doubles campaigns.