Raonic, Pospisil to face one another in Rogers Cup semifinal

Milos Raonic hits a return to Ernests Gulbis during their men's quarterfinal match at the Rogers...

Milos Raonic hits a return to Ernests Gulbis during their men's quarterfinal match at the Rogers Cup in Montreal, Aug. 9, 2013. (CHRISTINNE MUSCHI/Reuters)

BRIAN DALY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:33 PM ET

MONTREAL - Canadian tennis has reached heights not seen at the Rogers Cup in the Open era.

Canada's top two men's players, Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil, will square off on semifinal Saturday at Uniprix Stadium, guaranteeing a Canadian finalist for the first time since 1958.

Not since Mike Belkin in 1969 had even one Canadian made the Rogers Cup semis, but two made it happen within a three-hour period on Friday.

Pospisil, of Vernon, B.C., became the first Canadian in 44 years to reach the tournament's final four after Russian opponent Nikolay Davydenko retired due to a breathing problem.

It's the furthest the 23-year-old has ever advanced on Canada's top tennis stage and his emotional, upset-laden journey this week has upstaged Raonic's more businesslike run.

But the top Canadian on tour is wading in uncharted waters of his own.

Raonic, of Thornhill, Ont., took two hours and 27 minutes to finish off plucky Latvian Ernests Gulbis 7-6 (3) 4-6, 6-4 to advance past the Rogers Cup quarters for the first time.

He's in a great position to make the final since he's the highest remaining seed on his side of the bracket.

Pospisil's match was over quickly when Davydenko appeared to be labouring while down 3-0 in the first set. Prior to the start of the fourth game he told officials he couldn't continue the match. The 32-year-old former world No. 3 said he had bronchitis.

Raonic, meanwhile, dominated Gulbis with his serve in the first set, shutting out the Latvian in two service games and holding him to just a handful of points in the others.

But the Canadian's advantage was negated by substandard defence as he made several unforced errors against the quick, athletic 24-year-old.

That gave the Latvian the opening he needed, pushing Raonic to three break points in the 12th game before the Canadian held him off to force a tiebreak.

Raonic got the jump on Gulbis, going up 5-1 and eliciting one of the racket-smashing tirades the colourful Latvian is known for.

Thousands of centre court spectators showered the European with boos, but Gulbis won back the crowd immediately by throwing his deformed piece of equipment to a child in the front row.

The tantrum gave Gulbis a brief boost as he won two of the next three points, but Raonic's dominant tour-leading serve won out as he aced to take the tiebreaker 7-3.

He started the second set poorly as Gulbris broke him on a double fault while winning an increasing number of return points.

Raonic remained unable to stop Gulbis in service games and fell 6-4 in the second set while remaining unable to manage a break.

That all changed in the fourth game of the third set but Gulbis returned the break in the very next game, keeping things square at three games apiece.

The match turned in the final game when Raonic finally broke Gulbis while up 5-4, finishing him off when his opponent's shot sailed into the net.

If Raonic makes the final and Novak Djokovic beats Richard Gasquet in his Friday quarterfinal, Raonic would crack the ATP top 10, continuing a march to the top of world tennis that's unprecedented for a Canadian.

Pospisil, ranked 71st but sure to move into the ATP top 50 next Monday, recorded his first two career wins over top 20 players en route to Saturday's semifinal.

Included in his victories was an upset of world No. 6 Tomas Berdych on Thursday, Pospisil's first win against a top-10 player.

The native of Vernon, B.C., also beat 20th-ranked American John Isner in the first round.

Regardless of what happens from here on in, it's been a week of historic achievements for Canadian men at the Rogers Cup.

Earlier in the week a record five Canadians advanced to the second round with Filip Peliwo of Vancouver, Ottawa-born Jesse Levine and Frank Dancevic of Niagara Falls, Ont., also winning their first-round matches.

A clash of titans is shaping up on the bracket opposite Raonic and Pospisil as world No. 1 Novak Djokovic and the world's third-ranked player, Rafael Nadal, are both heavily favoured in their quarterfinal matches.

Djokovic has a 7-1 career record against his seventh-seeded opponent, Richard Gasquet.

Meanwhile, Nadal is a former world No. 1 and is the hottest player on the tour with seven titles this season, while opponent Marinko Matosevic of Australia is an unseeded qualifier with no ATP titles to his name.


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