Vasek Pospisil now has Canadian spotlight to himself

Canadian tennis star Vasek Pospisil comments on his play at Wimbledon.

The mistake many will make will be to see this as the most dramatic victory of Vasek Pospisil’s roller-coaster tennis career.

It wasn’t.

Important? Oh my, absolutely. Beating Victor Troicki on Monday in the Wimbledon hinterland of Court 12 — two whole rows of spectators on one side of the court — vaulted Pospisil into the tournament’s quarterfinals, only the third Canadian male to ever get that far.

That will take him to Centre Court, for the opponent will be Great Britain’s Andy Murray, and the fabled stadium will be filled with regular "C’mon Andy!" shouts for as long as it lasts, and Pospisil will get the full British tabloid treatment in the lead up to the match.

All of this is important, and it matters, and if Pospisil manages to find a way to defeat Murray, well, we’ll have to revisit the most dramatic victory question, won’t we?

For now, however, it’s worth pointing out that Pospisil has had more dramatic moments and more noteworthy victories.

For pure drama, never forget the Davis Cup clash in Tel Aviv back in September 2011, when before a hostile crowd he won both his singles matches and helped Daniel Nestor win the doubles to power Canada to the triumph it needed to get out of dreaded zones competition and into the mighty World Group where it has lived ever since.

You’ve heard this before, but to understand Pospisil’s wrecking ball efforts that broiling weekend against Israel, you really had to be there.

There was also the shocking doubles win with partner Jack Sock to topple the legendary Bryan Brothers in the Wimbledon final last year. There was his charge to the 2013 Rogers Cup semifinal in Montreal when he beat John Isner and Tomas Berdych before losing to countryman Milos Raonic. The next summer he beat Richard Gasquet in the semifinals in Washington to make a significant singles final, but again lost to Raonic.

Interestingly, given his comeback against Troicki on Monday, there have also been dramatic defeats, notably back-to-back crushing setbacks, both in five sets, at the 2013 French Open (Horacio Zeballos) and just a few weeks later at Wimbledon (Mikhail Youzhny).

Pospisil, 25, has packed an extraordinary amount of drama, good and bad, into his young career, and also suffered through a series of untimely injuries that have held him back from climbing into the top 20 in the world. While constantly fiddling with his game, changing this and fixing that, he rose as high as No. 27 after that Washington performance last year, but then sunk as low as No. 63, and entered his match against Troicki in the No. 56 slot.

Just as Eugenie Bouchard used very generous draws to do so well in the first three Grand Slam events of ’14, so too has Pospisil benefited at this year’s Wimbledon. Indeed, had Rafael Nadal not been upset in the second round by Dustin Brown, it might well have been Nadal across the net on Monday, and not in the relative anonymity of Court 12.

But that’s how these breakthroughs often happen, and you can only play whoever shows up. Troicki was no pushover, and indeed, he’s been very good lately, beating U.S. Open champ Marin Cilic twice in recent weeks and looking like one of the hotter players on tour.

He continued to look that way in the opening two sets against Pospisil on Monday, but then the momentum swung, and never really swung back. In the eighth game of the fifth set, Pospisil broke Troicki, and the break seemed both literal (in tennis terms) and symbolic, for the Serb sagged, and only won one point in the final game, ended with a subtle crosscourt half-volley that Troicki could reach, but not return.

With Bouchard and Raonic both gone, the former in the first round, the latter at the hands of energetic Nick Krygios (ousted himself by Gasquet on Monday), Pospisil now has the Canadian spotlight to himself. There’s always been this nagging suspicion that if he could stay healthy long enough and avoid all these agonizingly long battles he gets himself into, he might be able to seriously challenge Raonic as Canada’s top male.

But the injuries have come, and Raonic has been relentlessly consistent in terms of keeping his ranking safe, and so we have still only the suspicion. Against the sport’s heavyweights in the biggest tournaments, Raonic has been unable to deliver a monster win, and that at least saves the opportunity for Pospisil to do just that on Wednesday against Murray.

It’s unlikely, but not impossible.

The Scot has had a terrific year, a bounce-back year of his own, making the final at the Australian Open, delivering surprisingly strong results during the clay court season, and even lifting Great Britain to a stunning triumph over the United States in Davis Cup competition.

He ended a nation’s tennis drought by winning Wimbledon in 2013, beating Novak Djokovic in the final, but last year was knocked off by Grigor Dimitrov in the quarters as he continued to work his way back from back surgery.

He’s been rock solid at the All England Club so far this year, but has dropped a couple of sets. Everything being equal, he’ll have no trouble with Pospisil, but everything isn’t always equal in such athletic competitions, is it? Pospisil has a puncher’s chance, particularly if he serves well and has the fortitude to get to the net where his hands, more noteworthy in the doubles game, can shine.

Grass, suddenly, is Pospisil’s friend, or at least the most famous grass courts on the planet don’t scare him. Remember, he and Sock were massive underdogs to the Bryans, and won the title in — you guessed it — five sets.

The Vancouverite can go the distance, that we know, and he’ll probably have to do that to beat Murray, one of the fittest, fastest players on tour. To get the "W," it’ll probably take all the energy Pospisil needed that famous weekend in Tel Aviv to lift Canada to a massive triumph.

A day off, and then a date with history. And, possibly, with drama.

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