At 26, Vasek Pospisil is still working on putting all the pieces of the tennis puzzle together

At 26, Vasek Pospisil is still working on putting all the pieces of the tennis puzzle together

WIMBLEDON – Vasek Pospisil has come back to the lush green lawns where, a year ago, he had his most noteworthy result

And, as always is the case in tennis, it’s time to defend it.

The Vernon, B.C. native, who turned 26 last Thursday, isn’t worried about the points from his 2015 Wimbledon quarter-final singles effort dropping off the computer, even though a ranking he has somehow managed to maintain in the top 50 despite a pretty up-and-down year will tumble if he doesn't.

He’s thought about it, he knows what the consequences are of not defending the points. But it’s not changing anything.

“It’s not the end of the world (if I don’t defend), if I’m playing well. Even if I drop in the rankings, you get it back – if you’re on the right path,” Pospisil told Eh Game in Paris, after he had been eliminated from the French Open and mercifully ended his least-favourite part of the season on the red clay.

“It’s not like I don’t have the level, I do, and you’ll find your way there,” he added. “The important thing is to find the right direction, in all aspects: physically, on court, going to back to the basics on court, and make sure what I put my attention on is headed in the right direction.”

(Here are some photos of Pospisil practicing at Wimbledon over the weekend).

Pospisil, who has had some impressive results and some head-scratchers over the last few years on the ATP Tour, is a conundrum to most of the fans who follow him. Because he’s such a likable guy, there are a lot of people out there rooting for him who can’t figure out why he isn’t doing better.

It’s a source of frustration for them, but no more than for the man himself.

“Sure I’m frustrated, because I feel like I’m not reaching my potential, definitely. I feel like in 2013, the beginning of 2014, for a good period there, I was playing well, confident, felt great. When I had the back problem, that definitely had an effect on me. It was a very tough time,” he said. “At first, the people I went to told me I might not even be able to play. I was playing, but in a real bad state. Probably, looking back, if I were to change something, I would not play given the way I felt during some events. But because we didn’t really know, it wasn’t so simple.”

It’s not as though the back woes are behind him – pardon the bad pun. Even during the clay-court season, in the third set of Pospisil’s match in Munich against Germany's Jan-Lennard Struff, the back locked up on him. He didn’t even practice at all, or serve, until the day of his first-round match in Madrid the following week against Radek Stepanek of the Czech Republic, 

So the clay-court season didn’t get off to a good start, and it ended with a tough draw as he lost in the first round of the French Open to Tomas Berdych.

The one thing Pospisil is now crystal-clear about is that the fabric of his game rests on feeling good physically. When he does, he has a solid foundation to build on. When he doesn’t, it’s a struggle.

“In 2013, it was very clear, very simple, and that was good for me. I was feeling good physically, which is very important because for me to be confident on the court, I have to be fully confident in my body,” he said. “One of the things I’ve always kind of relied on is my athletic ability, to fight in matches. And as soon as I lost that, that affected my head a lot.”

Pospisil has tried a lot of things to try to find just thte recipe, much as his Davis Cup teammate Milos Raonic has. It's a custom-crafted recipe, different for each player. Some of the moves were good, others didn’t work out that well. He has made numerous changes to his support staff in an attempt to get those off-court factors headed in the right direction. He says he’s getting there.

“I’ve figured out a lot of stuff the last couple of weeks, in terms of the direction to go in, where to put my energy, my thinking, what to focus on,” he said. “I’m a perfectionist, so when I’m starting to work on a few new things, I go 100 per cent, and it might take away from other issues that are more important.

“Basically, I’m learning about myself.”

Pospisil said his touchstone has been coach Frédéric Fontang, a Frenchman who came on board about four years ago. Good coach, good human being. “He’s been the one who’s been a constant, solid thing,” he said.

Despite the great result at Wimbledon a year ago, Pospisil said he didn’t feel great physically for most of the season. And he also knows something everyone can see, that he’s an emotional guy.

“I overthink a lot of things. It’s a reality. A lot of times it helps me on the court, and sometimes it doesn’t. But it’s who I am,” he said. “It’s about taking that energy and directing it the right way. And I haven’t, because I’ve been trying to work on a lot of different things. And you can’t do everything.”

The Pospisil hierarchy is this: first is the tennis, the level, which Pospisil has. Second is the physical aspect, which he’s working on solidifying. Third is the mental part, which in his case is directly related to the physical.

If Pospisil doesn’t make a run at Wimbledon – he plays lefty Albert Ramos-Viñolas of Spain in the first round Tuesday morning – there are other opportunities ahead this summer in places he’s comfortable and on a surface he likes.

There is the Washington, D.C. tournament after Wimbledon, where he made the final in 2014 and lost to countryman Milos Raonic. There’s the Rogers Cup, in Toronto this year; he made the semi-final there in 2013 in Montreal, losing in a third-set tiebreak to Raonic. Then come the Summer Olympic Games in Rio, to be played on hard courts. And after that, there is the U.S. Open.

“If I’m fit, I feel like I can go and compete. And when I am, it’s fun,” he said.