WIMBLEDON – In looking ahead to his second-round match against Fabio Fognini, Canadian Vasek Pospisil said the mercurial Italian was a good player. But if he served well and just took it to him, he could definitely beat him.
That’s exactly what the 25-year-old from Vancouver did Thursday, upsetting the No. 30 seed 6-3, 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 to advance to the third round at Wimbledon for the first time in his career.
“I played well, served well, brought the intensity today right from the first point, and that made the difference,” Pospisil said. “I think my serve is getting better and better, so it was just a good serving day for sure. And that was obviously crucial part of the win today.”
As he looks ahead to his next match, and can even have fleeting thoughts of making the second week of a Grand Slam for the first time, Pospisil can thank Spain for a hefty assist.
First it was No. 8 seed David Ferrer withdrawing from the event with an elbow injury – but not before the Sunday noon deadline (the publication of the first day’s schedule of play). That meant the draw was not shuffled around to put another seeded player in Ferrer’s place. Rather, a lucky loser replaced him, a player who lost in the final round of the qualifying earlier in the week.
The next assist came from former champion Rafael Nadal, who was upset on Centre Court later Thursday in brilliant fashion by flashy serve-and-volleyer Dustin Brown.
These were two top players who figured to stand in Pospisil’s path. They’re both gone.
And he himself eliminated the No. 30 seed.
So who’s next?
British wild card James Ward.
If he wins that?
Brown or No. 22 seed Viktor Troicki of Serbia, for an opportunity to make the quarter-finals.
It’s heady stuff, not that Pospisil is getting ahead of himself.
Fognini comes to every match with an undetermined quota of drama. Sometimes it comes out, very occasionally he keeps it in his tennis bag. Sometimes it starts early, and sometimes it can get pretty ugly.
Generally, he keeps up a running commentary with his support group - in Spanish with coach Jose Perlas, in Italian with others. It’s not a completely one-way conversation, and it can get pretty salty. Whether it was a coincidence or not on Thursday that he happened to play better on the side of the court closest to his camp, compared to the loneliness of talking to himself over on the other side, only he knows.
But by the third game, irritated that Pospisil was in full “C’mon! Let’s go!” form from the get-go, he appeared to tell him to “shut up.” That brought a code violation for unsportsmanlike conduct from chair umpire Mohamed Lahyani, which had Fognini whining for the supervisor, which later led to various unsatisfactory conversations with officials who had no intention of humouring him.
Later in the set, after Lahyani wouldn’t replay a point, telling Fognini the lateness of the line call on a Pospisil serve had no effect, Fognini went in for round two.
“Are you crazy, or not?” he asked Lahyani.
“Are you crazy, or not?”
To which Lahyani replied, “Don’t use those words when you talk to me.”
Pospisil held for 5-2.
“Good job,” was Fognini’s take on the situation, as he insouciantly added tape to the tips of fingers.
It was typical Fognini theatre. But Pospisil was prepared.
“I was taking that as a positive thing. I was really happy about that. I was actually, yeah, the longer he goes, the better; if it throws him off, I’m fine with that,” he said, laughing. “Nothing was going to faze me or throw me off-guard. I imagined all those situations that can occur with him, so it didn’t come as a surprise.”
Pospisil’s form did drop after he won the first two sets rather routinely, not unusual in a best-of-five match. Perhaps sensing this a little, Fognini suddenly began to act as though he had some sort of interest in the outcome, upping his own intensity a little.
Two breaks down in a hurry, Pospisil looked ahead to regroup for a fourth set.
Which he did.
Pospisil has doubles on Friday with partner Jack Sock, against American Eric Butorac and Brit Colin Fleming. But Sock’s broken finger (on his left hand) has thrown a wild card into the situation.
“We’ll go out there and do the best we can. There are still ways to play around it. It’s not an ideal situation, it’s tough for him,” Pospisil said. “I don’t really know if he can hit a proper (two-handed) backhand. To be honest, I have no idea. I just know that he has the fracture and he told me it was quite painful when he plays backhands, so that’s quite tough in doubles.”