Historic day for Canada at Rogers Cup

Milos Raonic lunges for the ball during his first-round Rogers Cup match against Jeremy Chardy of...

Milos Raonic lunges for the ball during his first-round Rogers Cup match against Jeremy Chardy of France in Montreal Tuesday, August 6, 2013. (BEN PELOSSE/QMI Agency)

BRIAN DALY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:03 AM ET

The Canadian men made history this week at the Rogers Cup as an unprecedented five players bounced into the second round in Montreal.

Milos Raonic, Vasek Pospisil, Frank Dancevic, and Filip Peliwo joined Jesse Levine as first-round winners Tuesday, with Raonic, Canada’s top player, the last to advance at Uniprix Stadium.

The big-serving native of Thornhill, Ont. launched 12 aces on his way to a 6-3, 4-6, 7-5 win over 28th-ranked Jeremy Chardy of France.

“For me it’s important to play well here in Canada,” Raonic said in French to the appreciative Uniprix Stadium crowd. “Thanks for your support, with your support, it helped me win.”

The last time four Canadians made the second round of the Rogers Cup was in 1992 when Grant Connell, Daniel Nestor, Chris Pridham, and Greg Rusedski all advanced to mid-week. This time, Canada did one better for the first time in tournament history.

Pospisil, of Vernon, B.C., credits Tennis Canada training directors Louis Borfiga and Guillaume Marx, for the surge in Canadian tennis.

“It’s incredible,” he told reporters after upsetting American John Isner 5-7, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4) for his first win over a top-20 player. “It’s extremely exciting for Canadian tennis.

“All these young players, like Frank, me, the others winning their matches here. I believe all the Canadians are happy about this.”

Dancevic, the dean of active Canadian players at 28, says the breakthrough is all the more amazing at a Masters 1000 event that attracts mainly top-50 players.

“To have (this many) guys through the first round shows a lot in how far Canadian tennis has come along,” Dancevic said after dispatching Taiwan’s Yen-Hsun Lu in a 5-7, 7-6 (6) 6-1 marathon.

The star of the bunch is world No. 13 Raonic, who opened his first match of the Rogers Cup with a break against Chardy and controlled his service games with a decisive power advantage. He broke the Frenchman a second time to close out the set 6-3.

Chardy was stronger in the second set, holding off two break points as he won the set on the strength of a break in the seventh game. Raonic didn’t help himself with a series of unforced errors, mostly on forehands that sailed long.

The 22-year-old Canadian steadied himself in the third, returning Chardy’s serve more accurately and staving off double break point in the fifth game to hold serve and go up 4-3.

Raonic had Chardy at double break point in the eighth game but Chardy battled back to win on a Raonic unforced error.

Chardy faded at the finish while serving down 5-6, hitting three of four points into the net to propel the 6-foot-5 Canadian to victory.

He’ll play Russia’s Mikhail Youzhny in the second round on Wednesday.

Pospisil’s upending of Isner was the most thrilling of the Canadian wins Tuesday.

The 23-year-old former junior star was forced to match the North Carolinian giant’s power right from the start as Isner blasted 24 aces, compared with 16 for the Canadian.

With the first set tied at five apiece, Isner broke Pospisil and went on to take it 7-5. They split the first 12 games of the second set, both serves in fine form, forcing a thrilling tiebreaker that featured a 237 km/h game-opening blast by the 6-foot-10 athlete that Pospisil successfully returned to go up 6-5.

The B.C. native then finished Isner off with an ace of his own to take the second set, celebrating with one of many fist pumps.

The equally-tense third set also went to a tiebreaker and Pospisil finally appeared to be tiring his taller, slower opponent as he went up 2-0.

But Isner battled back with four consecutive points, including two breaks, to take a 4-2 lead before Pospisil made his final push with clever shot making.

He broke Isner on the ninth point by delivering a lunging forehand winner.

Pospisil then came to the net in the 10th point, hitting a stretched-out backhand winner that drew a roar from the 8,000 fans at Centre Court and yet another clenched fist from the emotional Canadian.

When Isner’s service return sailed long on the 11th and final point, Pospisil looked to the sky, clenched both fists, shook hands with his towering opponent, danced around the court and threw a ball into the crowd.

Montreal also provided fond memories for Filip Peliwo as the Wimbledon junior champion upended Jarkko Nieminen 3-6, 7-5, 3-1 at the start of play.

The Finnish star retired in the third set with a sore hamstring, allowing the 355th-ranked Vancouverite to advance and play Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan.

It’s Peliwo’s first ever Masters 1000 victory following a stellar junior career in which he reached the finals of every junior Grand Slam tournament.

Peliwo made the most of his wildcard invitation, using his aggressive game to wear down the 39th-ranked Niemenen.

The Finn was serving for the match in the second set but was broken for the first of two consecutive service games by the Canadian teen. Nieminen pulled out in the fifth game.

Canadians will play in four consecutive matches Wednesday, with Jesse Levine drawing the toughest opopnent in former world no. 1 Rafael Nadal.

Dancevic will also be in tough against 15th-seeded Jerzy Janowciz of Poland, a semifinalist at Wimbledon.

It’s been a great year for men’s tennis in Canada, regardless of the outcome.

With Pospisil’s rise to 71st in the rankings, Canada has two men in the top 75 on the ATP tour for the first time in nearly a quarter century. Grant Connell (74th) and Philip Schneider (60th) both reached the Top 75 in April 1990.

The featured match at Centre Court Tuesday pitted three-time Rogers Cup champion and world No. 1 Novak Djokovic against Florian Mayer of Germany. Djokovic has beaten Mayer in all four of their career meetings.

NOTES: Raonic entered the Rogers Cup as the top player on the ATP tour in first-serve points, with his 80% accuracy rate just ahead of Isner’s 79% ...

Isner’s ace against Pospisil drew gasps when the clock displayed 232 km/h ... Chair umpire Mohamed Lubyani grew irritated following breaks in the Raonic-Chardy match because fans were slow to return to their seats. He finally blew a gasket at the start of the second set, shouting “close the doors” to security as Raonic waited to serve. More fans stayed in their seats following the ump’s outburst ... One of Chardy’s serves was out by such a tiny margin that the replay had to be zoomed in three times to reveal the tinest sliver of green between the ball and the line.


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