MELBOURNE – Vasek Pospisil’s first-round victory at the Australian Open Monday was a team effort: there was the player himself, his anti-inflammatories, his painkillers, and an erratic, thoughtfully cooperative opponent in wild-card Aussie Sam Groth.
The 23-year-old Canadian’s 6-4, 6-3, 6-4 victory took just one hour, 43 minutes – a welcome quickie on a day the Canadian could not afford to waste any precious energy.
“I wasn’t actually expecting to play like that, given I wasn’t feeling 100 per cent and didn’t have really good preparation,” said Pospisil, whose back locked up on him 10 days ago at a warmup tournament in Chennai, India. “I only really played points the last two days.
“I returned extremely well, served well, did everything pretty well today,” he added.
Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Pospisil’s opponent, not surprisingly, had a diametrically opposed view of the proceedings.
“It was probably the worst match I played the whole (Australian) summer. I returned worse than I have the whole summer. I served the worst, and probably volleyed the worst I have all summer,” Groth said.
The statistics certainly bear Groth out on the serve return. He managed to win just 10 per cent of the points when Pospisil, who served just six aces, got his first serve in. Groth served 16 aces; but Pospisil managed to win one-third of those first-serve points.
Pospisil, who said he really wasn’t moving well at all the first two sets despite all the medication, made some educated guesses on Groth’s monster delivery (his fastest serve was a full 30 km/h faster than Pospisil’s best, and his second-serve average outpaced the Canadian’s delivery by a full 10 km/h).
He had played Groth, who holds the record for the fastest-ever serve, before, and he was on to some of his favorite patterns. He guessed correctly much of the time; he was reading the serve and dealing with it effectively.
In every other aspect of the game, Pospisil is by far the superior player. So by the third set, when Pospisil began moving a little better, there was little Groth could offer to stave off the inevitable.
In fact, despite Groth having the bigger serve, Pospisil had by far the easier serving day.
“I’m playing well from the baseline so if I could get his first serve back and get the point started, I knew I had the edge there,” Pospisil said.
The crowd was obviously pro-Aussie even if Pospisil inadvertently tried to get them on his side by sporting an Aussie yellow shirt. And by the time the two arrived on Show Court 2 after a marathon five-setter between Frenchman Nicolas Mahut (known for these types of things) and another Aussie, Matthew Ebden, it was happy hour at Melbourne Park in every sense of the word.
So the fans were fairly raucous. But it made for a Davis Cup-type atmosphere, Pospisil said.
Canadian tennis fans know how Pospisil responds to those types of conditions.
As it happens, Pospisil will play the winner of that marathon, which turned out to be the Aussie Ebden, in the second round on Wednesday.
It’s expected to be unbearably hot, more than 40C. So Pospisil’s relatively easy workday, and his opponents heated overtime effort, may have an effect on their match.
Tuesday's forecast is even worse, as the other two Canadians in the men's singles draw, No. 11 seed Milos Raonic and qualifier Frank Dancevic, begin their campaigns.
Raonic's match against Daniel Gimeno-Traver of Spain will start at 11 a.m.; Dancevic could end up taking the court in the extreme heat of the late afternoon when he faces Benoit Paire of France.
Both matches are scheduled on TV courts; so whether it's on TSN or on a livestream, Canadian fans should be able to see them.
Related post: Montreal's Genie Bouchard also advances on Monday.