Pospisil courts dream matchup

TORONTO - Vernon’s Vasek Pospisil is a fast-rising tennis star who can look forward to many special matches in his future.

Ed Klajman

For The Morning Star

TORONTO – Vernon’s Vasek Pospisil is a fast-rising tennis star who can look forward to many special matches in his future.

But no matter what he achieves in the game over the coming years, nothing will compare to what he experienced at the $2.43 million Rogers Cup in Montreal this week.

First, he registered by far the biggest win of his career on Tuesday, upsetting the 22nd-ranked player in the world, Argentina’s Juan Ignacio Chela, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.

Then he collected his reward for that win – a second-round match on Uniprix Stadium Court the next day against his idol and the man many experts regard as the greatest tennis player of all time – Roger Federer.

Pospisil may have lost to the 16-time Grand Slam champion, but he made it competitive, falling 7-5, 6-3. Afterward, he was all smiles as he spoke about living out his childhood dream.

“It was incredible. I will never forget this,” said the 21-year-old, who started the year ranked No. 340 in the world.

He is now up to No. 155, thanks to an amazing stretch that includes claiming titles at lower-tier tournaments, as well as winning pressure-packed matches that have enabled Canada to reach the brink of the prestigious World Group in Davis Cup competition.

In his post-match comments, Federer had lots of praise for Pospisil, who seems poised to join the upper echelon in men’s tennis.

“When I was going out to the court, it was like, ‘this guy has for sure a good serve,’” said the Swiss superstar who turned 30 on Monday. “And I knew that was his strength, alongside with his forehand, let’s say. He obviously has options with his size and his serve to completely change his playing style in the next few years. I think he looked very promising, with a lot of talent. Now it’s up to him to see how far he can take it.”

Pospisil was delighted to hear those words after facing Federer for 77 minutes.

“That’s incredible, hearing that from him. He’s been my favourite for eight years. I’ve been watching his games on TV every week. So it feels good to hear that,” he said.

Pospisil was shut out in the first game, but rebounded quickly and used some power baseline shots to keep the poised Federer interested throughout the set.

The second set saw Federer’s trademark of incredible shotmaking which had Pospisil hustling from side to side, forcing the youngster to knock several passing shots and forehands into the net.

Federer held Pospisil scoreless in four of the first seven games of the set.

Next up for Pospisil is trying to qualify for the U.S. Open in New York – the season’s final Grand Slam event that begins in late August.

After the win over Chela, he made it clear he’ll now be carrying a load of confidence into that tournament and expects he may raise even more eyebrows there.

“I’m looking forward to it. Maybe I won’t even be too far from being seeded maybe in quallies (the qualifying round). Wins like this (Chela), they help you in every aspect of the game.”

Born in Vernon, Pospisil was first coached by his father, Milos. The two would walk across the street to the Vernon Secondary School courts, pushing a grocery cart full of tennis balls for practice.

Vasek attended Beairsto Elementary until Grade 7 when Milos quit his job at Okanagan Spring Brewery and moved, with his wife, Mila, to Vancouver, where Vasek could get year-round training.

In past years, Vasek received professional coaching in the Czech Republic and soon found himself winning elite tournaments.

He has two older brothers, Tomas and Petr, both of whom were nationally-ranked junior tennis players. Petr teaches at Kitsilano Secondary School in Vancouver.

Vasek had career earnings of $103,700 going into the Rogers Cup.