The original plan for Vasek Pospisil this week was only to play doubles in Shanghai with Radek Stepanek, the Czech veteran with whom he plans to team up in 2017.
His ranking having tumbled since he failed to defend his 2015 quarter-final showing at Wimbledon, it didn't appear as though the 26-year-old Canadian would even make the cut for the qualifying in the Masters 1000-level event, the highest level outside the Grand Slams. Worse still, he had been forced out of the qualifying the previous week in Tokyo with a recurrence of back spasms.
But with injuries and withdrawals, Pospisil squeezed in. And after posting two victories in the qualifying, and two more in the main draw, he's into the third round of the singles and has a date with world No. 1 Novak Djokovic Thursday afternoon on the stadium court.
"I played very well. It was important to play a very clean match today, because Grigor is playing with a lot of confidence right now. It was a great win for me," Pospisil told the media after a 7-5, 7-6 (2), victory over Grigor Dimitrov, who had reached the final last week in Beijing and was on form coming in if perhaps a bit weary.
"It's been a tough year. Quite a few things were going on. But I feel really happy to be back. I feel like my old self on the court again. My head's in the game and I'm playing well," Pospisil added.
Pospisil defeated both Adrian Mannarino and Iñigo Cervantes in three sets in the qualifying, then posted an upset victory over huge-serving Ivo Karlovic of Croatia in the first round of the main draw. After a day off, he took on Dimitrov. Again, his serve proved difficult to break; he also came to net nearly 40 times in the straight-sets win.
The Canadian has now beaten Karlovic the last three times they have met, so that victory was less of a surprise than the win over Dimitrov, with whom he combined to reach the final of the juniors boys' doubles at the US Open back in 2007. The Bulgarian was 5-for-5 against him going back to their junior days.
It was his first win over a top-20 player in more than two years, since he upset world No. 14 Richard Gasquet on his way to the final against countryman Milos Raonic in Washington, D.C. in July, 2014.
The wins mean Pospisil has already risen 15 spots in the rankings from his current No. 131. He'll aim to jump about 30 more spots if he can, so as not to have to play the qualifing at the Australian Open in January.
He's 0-3 against Djokovic, with the two matches on outdoor hard courts in similar conditions being competitive.
As for the doubles with Stepanek that was the reason for going to Shanghai in the first place? That never happened. Stepanek injured his back in Tokyo and withdrew; Pospisil ended up picking up Robert Lindstedt of Sweden as a partner; the No. 8 seeds had a bye and will play their second-round match later Thursday.
Raonic to No. 4
Meanwhile, fellow Canadian Milos Raonic took to the Union Pay court in Shanghai just before Raonic Wednesday afternoon, his first match since having to withdraw from a semi-final against Dimitrov in Beijing late last week after injuring his right ankle in his quarter-final match.
The ankle looked fine as Raonic defeated the Italian Paolo Lorenzi 6-2, 6-4 in just over an hour to advance to a third-round clash against American Jack Sock.
Raonic had 14 aces, and faced no break points.
In the meantime, some of his fellow top-10 players are helping him out with some milestones. The results last week and the way the draw shook out in Shanghai meant that Raonic officially qualified for the ATP Tour Finals in London on Sunday.
And with Rafael Nadal's defeat Wednesday, along with Kei Nishikori's withdrawal from the tournament, Raonic is provisionally ranked No. 4 at the moment, which matches his career best.
If he defeats Sock on Thursday, he'll nail down that ranking. Even if he doesn't, the only way Raonic wouldn't hold down that spot when the updated rankings come out in Monday would be if Gaël Monfils of France were to win the tournament – a tough ask.
Another first-round loss for Bouchard
After 26 days off court following an emotional defeat at the WTA Tour event in Quebec City, Canadian Genie Bouchard showed up to fulfill her commitment at the indoor tournament in Linz, Austria rather short on match play and not expecting much.
She drew former junior rival Anett Kontaveit of Estonia (currently ranked No. 121) in the first round, a match that looked good on paper. But the rust showed as Bouchard went down 7-6 (5), 6-4 after leading the second set 3-0.
— Jimmie48 Photography (@JJlovesTennis) October 11, 2016
There doesn't appear to be much media at the Linz event, and quotes reported on Twitter vary. But to sum up, it seems Bouchard expected a disaster after being off the court for nearly a month so it wasn't that bad. She also pointed out that although she hasn't had a good season, she's still in the top 50 among the billions of humans on the planet.
The following day, Bouchard did some retail therapy, although it should be pointed out that it came on a tournament promotional outing with some of the other players.
Coach Nick Saviano was not scheduled to travel to Europe with her, and indeed he wasn't there; Cyril Saulnier, a regular fixture, was her coach for the week.
Bouchard traveled to Linz more or less because she committed to go. Two years ago, she did a drive-by in Austria having just qualified for the WTA Tour Finals in Singapore a few days prior in Asia. After winning her first match, she pulled out with an injury and promised to return.
Last year, with the aftereffects of the concussion, that wasn't possible. But Bouchard committed to it this time around with tournament director Sandra Reichel back at the US Open.
Her final event of the season is scheduled for next week in Luxembourg.
Nice guys finish first
Pospisil made the cutest ballboy in Shanghai cry Wednesday, when a kick serve late in the second set fooled Dimitrov and got the kid right in the stomach.
Even though he knew that stopping play would result in his opponent getting a re-do on his first serve, Dimitrov immediately went over to see if the young lad was all right – and gave him a sweaty wristband to make him feel a little better.
— Miami Open (@MiamiOpen) October 12, 2016
Pospisil got him on the changeover.
The on-court behaviour from both was in stark contrast to that of Aussie Nick Kyrgios, which is laid out in more detail here.
Kyrgios, who was impressive in reaching the final in Tokyo, was a petulant, unapologetic mess after that one. One step forward, one step back.
(To keep up with all the Canadian results this week, bookmark this link).