Vasek Pospisil powered his way into the third round of Wimbledon on Thursday with a 6-3, 6-4, 1-6, 6-3 win over 30th-seeded Fabio Fognini of Italy.
The bedrock of the victory was a super serving performance – with the No. 56-ranked Vancouverite winning 84 per cent of his first-serve points in the first and second sets and 87 per cent in the fourth. He later admitted his “energy dropped” in the third when he lost the first five games, with his first-serve points won percentage dipping to 71.
“I served well and brought the intensity today right from the first point,” Pospisil said. That intensity included pumping himself up with exclamations of “c’mon” after he won points – something that rankled the combustible Fognini in third game of the first set with Pospisil already leading 2-0.
The No. 28-ranked Italian actually confronted Pospisil about it and then got into a protracted argument with umpire Mohamed Lahyani.
Pospisil laughed about it later. “I was taking that as a positive thing,” he said about Fognini’s dispute with Lahyani. “I was actually quite happy about that – ‘the longer he goes, the better!’
“I was prepared for everything – so nothing was going to faze me or throw me off guard. I’d imagined all those situations that can occur with him so it didn’t come as a surprise.”
The match was pretty well one-way traffic with the Pospisil serve the dominant factor. But there was a definite shift in the third set and matters looked a little dicey for him when he went down love-30 serving at 2-2 in the fourth set.
But a pair of Fognini forehand unforced errors in rallies and Pospisil was reinvigorated and went on to hold serve with an ace and a gorgeous backhand half-volley winner close to the net.
It was smooth sailing from there and he appropriately began and ended a superb serving afternoon with his 22nd and 23rd aces in the final game.
“I served well,” said Pospisil, above walking to Court 12 on Thursday. “I always serve well on grass and I think my serve is getting better and better.”
Coach Fred Fontang was pleased with his man’s performance. “Vasek played very aggressive, going forward – that’s his strength and the way he has to play,” said the Frenchman. “He’s obviously a good server. But when he plays too much from the baseline, as he did in his first match, it makes things more complicated and tires him out on his serve. If he stays aggressive, then he has a higher quality of first serves.”
The win sets up a third-round match on Saturday against James Ward, the British wild card ranked No. 111 – but now up inside the Top 90 with his two wins this week.
Ward won their only previous meeting 6-4, 7-5 in the semifinal of a 2011 Challenger event in Vancouver. Speculation has already begun about where the match might be played – with both Centre Court and No. 1 Court considered possibilities, especially after Rafael Nadal was upset on Thursday evening.
Pospisil, who sometimes consulted a notebook on the chair beside him during the match, would welcome a grand stage and even a crowd that will be partisan in favour of his opponent. “I actually tend to play well when the crowd’s against me,” he said. “I think I just play well in front of big crowds generally. If I’m feeling well physically, then it brings the best out of me. Even if they’re not cheering for me, I embrace the situation. I like playing on big courts.”
Pospisil had to retire from a match last week in Nottingham with back spasms, but all that appears to be behind him. “Physically I finished strong and I was feeling good today, much stronger than the other day (Tuesday vs. qualifier Vincent Millot). You never know how you’re going to recover, so it was definitely nice to be 100 per cent fit for this event.”
On Friday, he and partner Jack Sock, third seeds and defending champions, will play a second-round doubles match against American Eric Butorac and Briton Colin Fleming. There are serious concerns about Sock because he has a fractured middle finger on his left (two-handed backhand) hand.
“It’s obviously not great,” Pospisil said about Sock’s digit. “That’s tough. But we’ll go out there and do the best we can. There’s ways to play around it but it’s not an ideal situation.
“I don’t really know if he can hit a proper backhand. I just know he has the fracture and he told me it’s quite painful when he plays backhands.”
Raonic, Kyrgios set for mega clash
The Milos Raonic – Nick Kyrgios blockbuster third round will have No. 2 Court as a stage when the two rising stars meet at Wimbledon on Friday. Raonic, 24, and Kyrgios, 20, play the opening match on No. 2 Court beginning at 12:15 p.m. (7:15 a.m. EDT in Canada).
Raonic won 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-4, 7-6(4) in their quarter-final meeting at Wimbledon a year ago, and a few weeks earlier in the first round at Roland Garros by a 6-3, 7-6(1), 6-3 score.
In their two matches leading into Friday’s clash, Raonic has a lost a set to both Daniel Gimeno-Traver and Tommy Haas while Kyrgios has advanced in straight sets over Diego Schwartzman and Juan Monaco.
The statistics are uncannily similar for both men: Raonic, 6-foot-5, and Kyrgios, 6-foot-4, are both dominating servers. Both have lost serve just once in two matches and Raonic has a slight edge in average service speed for first and second serves – he was 124 mph and 111 mph versus Gimeno-Traver and 129 mph and 115 mph against Haas.
Kyrgios was 121 mph and 109 mph versus Schwartzman and 123 mph and 105 mph against Monaco. (Raonic’s fastest serve has been 145 mph compared to 136 mph for Kyrgios.)
There’s unlikely to be very much serve-and-volley tennis. Both players are 9 for 12 in total serve-and-volley attempts over their first two matches.
It’s clear Raonic is much more likely to get to the net. He is 44/78 successful in net approaches over his first two matches while Kyrgios, though adventuring forward less frequently, is a more effective 19/31.
All numbers aside, the match is likely to be won between the ears. Logically Raonic is the more experienced and has the calmer demeanour, while the edgy Kyrgios has a reputation for being more rambunctious.
It’s a counterpoint rivalry that has the potential to last into the next decade.
For right now it’s intriguing to see who gets the leg up in a match that probably deserved better than 4,063-seat No. 2 Court.
Vasek Pospisil offered a player’s perspective, saying about the highly-anticipated confrontation, “that’s a tough third round for sure – two players who like to play on this surface and two big serves. I’d have to give the advantage to Milos – just because of their previous encounters and he’s not an easy guy to return against on grass. But I think it’ll be an entertaining match. It could be one that goes the distance.”
Shamasdin out in doubles
Adil Shamasdin and his Australian partner Rameez Junaid were ousted in the doubles first round on Thursday, beaten 7-6(4), 6-3, 6-7(4), 6-2 by Dominic Inglot of Britain and Edouard Roger-Vasselin of France.
The British/French pairing had four break points to none in the opening set and then took a commanding 6-1 lead in the tiebreak on their way to sealing the set.
Shamasdin, 33, and Junaid, 34, could never really catch up.
The Pickering, Ont. resident and Junaid have had a solid 2015 so far – winning the ATP 250 event in Casablanca in April and reaching the semifinals of three other ATP 250s – Chennai, Montpellier and Marseille.
They currently rank No. 24 among doubles teams in 2015, with Shamasdin No. 61 in the ATP individual doubles rankings and Junaid No. 71.
Shamasdin remains in the mixed doubles and plays a first round with Gabriela Dabrowski of Ottawa on Friday.
The early leader for the most dapper suit at Wimbledon ’15 could this guy. He was strolling along beside Court 18 earlier this week and definitely has little trouble making a first impression.