Vasek Pospisil from Canada returns ball to Tomas Berdych from the Czech Republic in during Rogers Cup tennis action in Montreal on Thursday August 08, 2013.
MONTREAL — Vasek Pospisil will have to reset his goals — again.
The 23-year-old from Vancouver has reached a number of milestones en route to the quarter-finals of the $3.4-million Rogers Cup men’s tennis championships.
“This has been the best week of my life,” Pospisil said Thursday after he defeated fifth-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych 7-5, 2-6, 7-6.
And the good news is that Pospisil has an opportunity to go even farther. A series of upsets has opened up the bottom half of the draw and the only seeded player remaining is fellow Canadian Milos Raonic, the 11th seed. Raonic upset sixth-seeded Juan Martin del Potro 7-5, 6-4 and will meet Ernests Gulbis of Latvia Friday afternoon. Gulbis advanced with a 6-4, 6-3 win over the No. 2 seed, Briton Andy Murray.
After posting his first win over a top-20 player (John Isner on Tuesday) and his first win over a top-10 player (the sixth-ranked Berdych), Pospisil has a somewhat easier task Friday when he meets Nikolay Davydenko, who checks in at No. 47. Davydenko eliminated fellow Russian Alex Bogomolov 6-4, 6-3.
“I don’t care what the rankings say, anyone who gets to the quarterfinals of an event like this has to be playing good tennis,” Pospisil said. “I’m not taking anyone lightly.”
Thursday’s win was the latest in a run that has seen Pospisil soar in the rankings. When he won the $100,000 Vancouver Open last week, he went from No. 89 to 71, His performance here guarantees him a spot in the mid-50s and, if he beats Davydenko, he’ll be in the top 40.
“He’s really on a roll,” Berdych said. “I heard he won a Challenger last week and he’s won three matches here. He’s really on fire. It’s really tough to judge what kind of player he’s going to be. Basically, whatever he touches (here) goes in. I mean it starts with his serve (but) he has a really good game to break through.”
The serve was a major factor in the match. Pospisil had 20 aces, including two in the deciding tiebreaker, while Berdych had more double-faults (11) than aces (10).
The match, which was played on the secondary Banque Nationale grandstand, was played before a raucous, pro-Pospisil crowd and both players said it reminded them on the atmosphere that engulfs Davis Cup matches.
“That was the best match I’ve ever played in terms of atmosphere at the end,” said Pospisil, who credited the crowd for pumping him up and helping him refocus after he lost the second set. He broke Berdych for a 2-1 lead in the third set but Berdych broke back in the eighth game to set up the tiebreaker.
“Lucky for me, I wasn’t thinking too much in the tiebreaker,” Pospisil said with a smile. “I was up a break early in the third, but I played a couple of points I shouldn’t have and he deserved to break back. But at the end, I was serving well and the tiebreaker went my way.”
While Pospisil has been a roll, Raonic’s recent performances have been disappointing. He had a 5-7 record dating back to May but he has won three in a row and has looked better in each outing.
His only problem Thursday was an inflamed muscle in his neck that required medical attention after he took a 2-1 lead in the first set. There was a lengthy delay while he received treatment on court but he showed no ill effects as he promptly broke del Potro ‘s serve.
“It was an 11-minute medical time out, 11 minutes, and nobody would tell me what was going on,” del Potro complained.
Del Potro was also upset over an incident in the second set when he was up a break and serving at 4-3. Raonic touched the net after hitting a shot, which is a no-no in tennis. The line judge missed the infraction, Raonic won the point and went on to even the set.
“I was lucky the line judge didn’t see it,” said Raonic, who dismissed a suggestion that he should have called the infraction on himself saying: “It was a big point.”
Del Potro, who is normally one of the best servers in the game, was bothered by a sore back and managed only one ace while Raonic delivered a dozen.
“I don’t think either of us was 100 per cent,” Raonic said. “Obviously, he was also far from that. I sort of stuck to it, sort of played aggressive. I just tried keeping points short. He was a little bit limited from what I could tell on his rotation. He wasn’t able to sort of pass as well as he normally would, or serve as well.”
The form held up better in the top half of the draw. Qualifier Marinko Matosevic of squeaked past Benoit Paire of France 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 and will meet fourth-seeded Rafael Nadal of Spain, who beat 15th-seeded Jerzy Janowicz of Poland 7-6, 6-4.
The other quarter-final has seventh-seeded Richard Gasquet of France against top-seed Novak Djokovic of Serbia, who struggled before beating unseeded Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan 2-6, 6-4, 6-4. Gasquet rallied to beat ninth-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.
FRIDAY BEST BETS
Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil will be featured in the afternoon on centre court as they attempt to become first Canadians to reach the semifinals of this event since Montrealer Mike Belkin in 1969.
Pospisil will kick off the action at noon when he plays former top-10 player Nikolay Davydenko of Russia. That will be followed by the match between the 11-seeded Raonic and unseeded Ernests Gulbis of Latvia.
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