June 24, 2024

Open Court

MORE TENNIS THAN YOU'LL EVER NEED

Pospisil notches first post-surgery win – with one arm

GRANBY, Que. – The big one, of course, is coming up in 10 days at the Rogers Cup in Montreal.

So with a sore left wrist – diagnosed as a bone bruise – Canadian Vasek Pospisil is taking no chances.

The 29-year-old returned to action for the first time since January back surgery in the first round of Wimbledon. There, he had the unfortunate task of having to face friend and countryman Félix Auger-Aliassime in the first round.

Pospisil lost in four sets. But while he appears to be moving well, other physical niggles have popped up, including the knee.

And, last week, while practicing before a planned appearance in the Challenger in Gatineau, Que., the left wrist.

Pospisil withdrew from Gatineau, but took a wild card into this week’s Challenger in Granby, Que., about an hour outside Montreal. 

He faced fellow Canadian Josh Peck armed with … only one arm.

You have to see it to believe it.

Pospisil didn’t hit a single two-handed backhand. Instead, he chipped most of them, and even unleashed the topspin one-handed backhand that until now, has only been showcased on the practice court – or after a point is over.

“It’s sick, isn’t it?” said Canadian Davis Cup captain Frank Dancevic (he meant this in a good way!), who is helping out Pospisil for a few weeks as he makes his comeback.

Peck undoubtedly knew about Pospisil’s situation, as his college (and national training centre) teammate Ben Sigouin was practicing with Pospisil when he hurt the wrist in Gatineau. Still, he aimed primarily for Pospisil’s big forehand. Perhaps, as Pospisil posited, it was because he was running around to try to hit as many forehands as possible, and Peck wanted to open up the court.

But Pospisil was able to dictate play, serve well, and pull out his first win since the back surgery, 6-3, 6-3.

Very laid-back atmosphere

Pospisil  was just sitting on the practice court, getting ready to warm up for his match, when an official came over to tell him that the previous match on the Granby center court had ended prematurely with an injury retirement.

No worries. He said he’d be ready in half an hour, did his warmup, and headed out.

He unleashed a few one-handers there – right next to a random woman (definitely not in tennis attire) who was hitting a few balls on the next court. Granby is – well, it’s a low-key atmosphere.

Pospisil even was signing tennis balls for a group of ball kids just moments before he headed out to play the match.

Solid serving, big forehands

Pospisil got caught a few times on the backhand return, without his two-hander. Peck, 20, is taller than Pospisil and cranked his first serve as high as 213 km/hour. 

What he lacks, of course, is experience. He went through the Montreal-based national training program for several years, before going down to the U.S. where he plays for the University of North Carolina.

He has never played an ATP Tour-level event. And this was only his third career main-draw match even at a Challenger event.

The difference in level and experience was fairly evident. Here’s what it looked like.

Popular Pospisil

After the match, Pospisil was a popular man among the autograph-seeking crowd. He had Dancevic cheering him on. And Frederic Niemeyer, the Tennis Canada coach who was his first coach when he transitioned to the pro tour, came down from Montreal to support him.

Niemeyer is headed to Washington, D.C. Thursday, as he’s currently working with Brayden Schnur (who is in the qualifying there).

Escobedo next for Pospisil

Next up for Pospisil in Granby is a tougher customer in American Ernesto Escobedo.

Escobedo, still just 23, was ranked a career high No. 67 exactly at this time of the season two years ago. He’s down to No. 288 now; while he hasn’t missed any chunks of time because of injury, he has had a lot of smaller things. And his ranking has been on a steep decline since then.

Pospisil

He’s currently being coached by former top-20 American player Jan-Michael Gambill.

Pospisil

Escobedo defeated No. 14 seed Kaichi Uchida 7-5, 6-3 in his first-round match Wednesday.

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