VANCOUVER -- Vasek Pospisil claimed he had a personal connection to many in the crowd watching him play Sunday in the men's singles final at the $200,000 Odlum Brown VanOpen.
He knew they were with him and felt it, too. Sometimes to an extreme.
“You know what?” Pospisil said after he fought off three match points to finally subdue Britain's Daniel Evans 6-0, 1-6, 7-5 at Hollyburn Country Club. “Now that the tournament is over, I am going to be completely honest. It's not easy. It's very difficult. It's mentally draining. I felt like it was starting to get to me on Saturday. I was having trouble concentrating. I was getting tired.”
Pospisil, born in Vernon, now calls Vancouver home. He is rarely at home, though, in his peripatetic life as a tennis pro. So this was a tournament he desperately wanted to win.
He entered the VanOpen as the No. 2 seed but quickly became top gun when No. 1 seed Evgeny Donskoy of Russsia was a first-round upset loser to Evans.
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Pospisil didn't drop a set in his first four matches and then sailed through his first set Sunday against Evans in a remarkable 17 minutes. After that, it was game on. Evans broke Pospisil at love to open the second set and proceeded to win 10 of the next 12 games to go up 4-1 in the third set.
Evans had three match points leading 5-4 in the final set with Pospisil serving. He couldn't close it out, however, and Pospisil rebounded magnificently to win that game and the next two, twice acing Evans in the final game. Pospisil entered the VanOpen ranked 89th in the world while the unheralded Evans was 248th.
With the victory, Pospisil improved his ranking to a career best No. 71. He also added $14,400 US to his bank account. It was his fourth win on the Challenger circuit and second this season.
“Being down match point, it was hard not to think about it,” said Pospisil, 23. “I just tried to get my first serves in and it worked out. I'm very thrilled. I really wanted to win this tournament really badly. I knew Evans was going to come back and play much better than he did in the first set. I'm just very excited I was able to do it.
“This is a great boost for my ranking and my career and I hope to take this momentum with me into my next tournament.”
His next tournament begins Tuesday in Montreal at the Rogers Cup when he'll face 6-9 American John Isner, ranked 20th in the world.
Evans, a 5-9 dynamo from Birmingham, was kicking himself for letting the match slip through his racquet after he had valiantly fought back from the first-set disaster.
“I think I silenced the crowd for a good hour there,” said Evans, who boosted his ranking to No. 194 and took home $8,480 US. “But he came up with the goods when he needed to, so all the credit to him. I had a good week here but to lose in the final is never nice.”
In Sunday's women's final, Toronto's Sharon Fichman fell 6-4, 6-2 to Britain's Johanna Konta. Due to Friday's rain, Fichman was forced to play three matches on Saturday: singles quarter-finals and semi-finals and then doubles final, which she won with partner Maryna Zanevska of the Ukraine. It appeared to catch up to her Sunday.
“It was tough, especially with the quality of the tennis Saturday being quite high,” said the 22-year-old Fichman after the loss to Konta, also 22. “It took a little bit out of me but that's what it is. Not to take anything away from Johanna, she played a great match. I'm a professional athlete and it's my job to be ready to fight every day. I came out and did my best. Was it as good as before? Maybe not.”
The 5-3 Fichman was unable to break serve of the 5-11 Konta. She had only three break opportunities the entire match.
“I mean, I pride myself on my returns but she was serving really well and my returns weren't working too well, “ Fichman added. “When she needed a point, she came up with something big. She had a good day. It was a little bit disappointing but I'm happy about the doubles.”
Fichman was still able to improve her WTA world ranking to a career best 104 after entering the VanOpen at 119. Konta, who was born in Australia and moved to Britain at 14, knew she had an advantage coming into the match.
“Sharon definitely had a tough schedule Saturday and I was aware of that,” she said. “I was expecting a tough match because she is a really tough fighter but I know she didn't play her best. I'm just very happy I won.”
Konta collected $15,200 US for the victory and improved her ranking to 115th from 147th. Fichman earned $8,107 US.
NET NOTES: The men's doubles, played Sunday, was captured by the veteran Israeli team of Jonathan Erlich and Andy Ram, who took out Toronto's Adil Shamasdin and his American partner James Cerretani in straight sets, 6-1, 6-4.
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