Vasek Pospisil, Milos Raonic advance to Rogers Cup quarters

Canadian Vasek Pospisil celebrates after upsetting Czech Tomas Berdych to reach the quarterfinals...

Canadian Vasek Pospisil celebrates after upsetting Czech Tomas Berdych to reach the quarterfinals of the Rogers Cup in Montreal, August 8, 2013. (MARTIN CHEVALIER/QMI Agency)

BRIAN DALY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:42 PM ET

MONTREAL - The Canadians stole the show once again at the Rogers Cup.

Vasek Pospisil continued his dream run Thursday with his first-ever berth in the tournament quarterfinals while world No. 13 Milos Raonic shook off two injuries to cruise into the round of eight.

It’s the first time since 1989 that two Canadians have made it this far in their home tournament and Pospisil also managed to steal the more-heralded Raonic’s thunder on Canadian tennis’s biggest stage.

The 23-year-old B.C. native had never beaten a top 20 player entering the ATP Masters 1000 tournament. Now he’s knocked off two in three days, with the latest being world No. 5 Tomas Berdych, who he toppled 7-5, 2-6, 7-6 (5).

“This was the best win of my whole career,” said Pospisil, who opened his tournament by knocking off 20th-ranked American John Isner.

The crowd at National Bank Court was electric and definitely in the Canadian’s corner, giving him standing ovations after big points.

He played off the atmosphere as he has all week, gesturing into the stands and blowing them kisses after the big win.

“That was the best match in terms of atmosphere at the end that I’ve ever played,” said Pospisil, who advances to meet 47th-ranked Russian Nikolay Davydenko in the quarterfinals.

Raonic, of Thornhill, Ont., shook off a slump as well as a sore neck and right arm to topple Juan Martin Del Potro 7-5, 6-4 at Uniprix Stadium.

It seemed at first that Canada’s best player wouldn’t even be able to complete the match.

Up 2-1 in the first set, Raonic didn’t get out of his courtside chair during the switchover break. A trainer attended to him, focussing on his upper arm. Raonic was soon having his neck massaged and before long he was laid out on his back.

But he got to his feet after 10 minutes and promptly proceeded to break his Argentinean opponent in the fourth game to go up 3-1.

Raonic aced Del Potro eight times and broke him twice to take the set 7-5.

In the second set, the South American star couldn’t match the aggressive and attacking style of Raonic, who might also have benefited from a missed call at the net in the eighth game.

With Del Potro serving, Raonic’s feet touched the net before he hit his ball to the other side and won.

According to the rules, a player who touches the net while the ball is still in play loses the point. But the violation wasn’t called and Raonic was awarded break point over Del Potro’s objections to the chair umpire.

Del Potro didn’t win another game in the match and took to Twitter to voice his frustration.

“Very upset after the match I lost,” he posted. “About the end... I think everybody saw what happened.”

Raonic admitted his foot touched the net.

“I was fortunate that the line judge didn’t see it,” he told reporters. “It’s a lucky thing for me in my sense, unlucky for him.”

As for his injury, Raonic described it as a neck muscle that’s “tight and a little bit inflamed, pinching a nerve,” but he said the situation improved as the match progressed.

Raonic’s road to the Rogers Cup final got easier with world No. 3 David Ferrer and second-ranked Andy Murray knocked out of his side of the bracket.

The Canadian’s quarterfinal opponent is Ernests Gulbis of Latvia, who beat Murray Thursday but hasn’t won a set against Raonic in three career defeats.

In Thursday’s other big Canadian victory, Pospisil fought Berdych every step of the way, overcoming a series of mis-hit groundstrokes by breaking the European with spectacular shots at key moments while hammering home 20 aces.

Meanwhile, Berdych’s serve let him down in the first set as he double-faulted seven times, including four failed serves in a marathon ninth game that he still managed to win.

Pospisil had his own share of miscues, mainly on his forehands, which often sailed wildly long to groans from the crowd. But the 71st-ranked Canadian put himself in great position in the 12th game by pushing Berdych to break point. A Berdych forehand into the net gave Posipsil a 6-5 lead and the break.

The Canadian held serve in the 13th game when another Berdych forehand hit the net, and Pospisil responded to the set-winning point by skipping back to his chair while staring down the crowd.

Berdych dominated the second set 6-2 by breaking Pospisil twice, but the Canadian got the jump on his more-experienced rival in the third.

A key moment came in the the third game when the 23-year-old Canadian made his best shot of the match — a sizzling, untouchable service return that found a deep corner for the crucial service break. He held serve to go up 3-1, pointing to the ground multiple times in celebration when a Berdych return went long.

But the 11-year ATP veteran made his stand in the seventh game while down 3-4, getting to triple break point against Pospisil when a forehand slice attempt went long, eliciting groans from the 3,000 spectators.

The Czech then jumped on the mistake and broke the Canadian with two spectacular service returns that Pospisil couldn’t handle, evening the set at 4-4.

Both men held serve to force the climactic tiebreaker.

Pospisil asserted his serve advantage on the second and third points, blasting back-to-back aces past Berdych to take a 3-1 lead.

Berdych battled back to tie the set at 4-4. However, it was his turn to falter as he gave up the match on three straight points on long forehands, the last mistake prompting Pospisil to pump both fists as if he’d won the entire tournament.

Pospisil, the wildcard entry from Vernon, has now scored three straight upsets in Montreal. He defeated 20th-ranked American John Isner in the second round and opened his tournament with a straight-set win against Czech Radek Stepanek, who is ranked 51st in the world.

Earlier on Thursday, a surging Rafael Nadal proved he’s all the way back from last year’s knee injury.

The Spanish star masterminded one comeback after another in a 7-6 (6), 6-4, win over powerful young Polish star Jerzy Janowicz to become the first quarterfinalist in Montreal.

Andy Murray won’t be joining Nadal in the round of 16 as the Wimbledon champion went down to Ernests Gulbis 6-4, 6-3. It was a breakthrough for the unseeded Latvian, who had been 0-for-5 against Murray, winning just two of the 14 previous sets they had played.

Things were much different this time around as the Latvian broke Murray three times and fired seven aces past one of the tour’s top service returners.

In the final match of the evening, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic battled back from one set down to defeat unseeded Denis Istomin of Uzbekistan 2-6, 6-2, 6-4. He'll move on to play no. 7 seed Richard Gasquet of France in the quarterfinals on Friday.

brian.daly@sunmedia.ca


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