As he works to get his career back on track, Vasek Pospisil looks to an old coach and friend

Eh Game
Five years ago, when Vasek Pospisil was first starting out on the ATP Tour level, he had Quebecer Fred Niemeyer by his side (seen here at Wimbledon in 2012) (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)
Five years ago, when Vasek Pospisil was first starting out on the ATP Tour level, he had Quebecer Fred Niemeyer by his side (seen here at Wimbledon in 2012) (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)

NEW YORK – Vasek Pospisil won't remember 2016 fondly, with all of his struggles on court and the price they are now exacting on his ATP Tour ranking.

But the season isn't over yet. And as the 26-year-old begins a search for a coach to follow in the footsteps of Frédéric Fontang, he's turning to ... another Frédéric to fill the void.

When Pospisil heads to China after the U.S. Open and the Davis Cup tie in Halifax in mid-September, he'll have an old, trusted confidante supporting him in Fred Niemeyer, the Quebecer who worked with him when he first arrived at the ATP Tour level five years ago.

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"It was one of the first things I thought of. I feel like I need some of his energy, and also we’re great friends and I respect him as a coach, too, so I think it’ll be good," Pospisil told Eh Game Sunday, after one last hit on the practice courts at the US Open.

In the first round of singles Monday, Pospisil plays lucky loser Josef Kovalik of Slovakia, who is ranked No. 126 to Pospisil's current No. 123.

After four years with Fontang, during which Pospisil reached the top 30 in singles and won multiple doubles titles, including Wimbledon in 2014, finding the right fit won't be easy. But given Pospisil's state of mind this season, which has spilled over onto the match court and resulted in some pretty jaw-dropping defeats, it's probably not even the right time to make a long-term commitment.

He'll head to Asia with his new circumstances having kicked in, and he will need some luck to even get into the qualifying with a ranking outside the top 100.

For this US Open, Pospisil has former Egyptian Davis Cup captain Tamer El Sawy in his corner, a former ATP Tour pro his agent at IMG set him up with as an interim measure. The two just met Saturday.

Pospisil will have experienced coach Tamer El Sawy in his corner during this US Open. (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)
Pospisil will have experienced coach Tamer El Sawy in his corner during this US Open. (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)

El Sawy, 44, is Cairo-born and currently based in Tampa, Fla. He reached No. 128 in singles and No. 125 in doubles during his pro career and owns an academy that is based at the University of South Florida.

Niemeyer is unlikely to be a permanent solution for Pospisil, with whom he worked in 2011 and 2012. Niemeyer was the coach who helped him make the transition from the juniors into the pros; Pospisil rose from No. 340 in the world to near the top 100 during that period.

Here they are talking about their relationship back in 2011 at the U.S. Open. It all seems so long ago, doesn't it?

Niemeyer went straight from retiring from professional tennis in late 2009 to working with Pospisil's Davis Cup teammate MIlos Raonic, in a similar "transition" role.  Raonic was just inside the top 400 at the end of 2009 when Niemeyer came on board and less than a year later, was close to the top 150.

As a new father and after having spent so many years on the road as a journeyman pro, Niemeyer was unwilling to travel the number of weeks required as the full-time coach of an ATP Tour player. He has stayed close to home, working at the national centre in Montreal although for whatever reason, he doesn't appear to be involved with the national program juniors.

He won't find the same happy-go-lucky kid he worked with back then, as Pospisil has often appeared to have the weight of the world on his shoulders this season.

It's been a tough month, with a desultory loss to Gael Monfils at the Rogers Cup in Toronto followed by a meeting with Monfils the very next week at the Olympic tennis event. 

Pospisil and Daniel Nestor went from being in a position to go for a gold medal in doubles to being off the podium entirely in the space of just over 24 hours, after losing a tough semi-final to eventual gold medalists Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez, then the bronze-medal match to Pospisil's former partner Jack Sock and his U.S. countryman Steve Johnson.

Then he went staight to the Masters 1000 tournament in Cincinnati and lost in two close sets to Marcos Baghdatis of Cyprus in the first round. He said Sunday that one was probably the worst.

But Pospisil said the cloud seems to have lifted significantly in the last few days, and he is finding himself far more eager to be out on the court and competing.

Pospisil practices with qualifier Marton Fucsovics of Hungary Sunday at the US Open. He plays lucky loser Josef Kovalik Monday in the first round of singles. (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)
Pospisil practices with qualifier Marton Fucsovics of Hungary Sunday at the US Open. He plays lucky loser Josef Kovalik Monday in the first round of singles. (Stephanie Myles/opencourt.ca)

The draw was kind to him in New York – no Monfils in sight – in the person of Kovalik, a 23-year-old who qualified for his first Grand Slam main draw this year in Australia. This is his second; Kovalik lost to veteran Swiss player Marco Chiudinelli in the final round of the qualifying, but got in after late withdrawals.

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