Canadian tennis is on the rise—most notably for the men.
At the Rogers Cup in Montreal, one of the biggest tennis tournaments of the year outside of the grand slams, five of six Canadian men reached the second round—a new mark.
The action began on Monday with Ottawa-born lefthander Jesse Levine, 25, beating Belgium’s Xavier Malisse 6–4, 7–6. Levine, ranked No. 132, used his steady game to get the better of the error-prone Malisse, ranked No. 118, to set up a date with Spain’s Rafael Nadal on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the thrills continued with four three-set victories by the Canadians. Frank Dancevic beat Yen-Hsun Lu 5–7, 7–6, 6–1, Vasek Pospisil pulled off a major upset of American John Isner 5–7, 7–6, 7–6, Filip Peliwo defeated Finland’s Jarkko Nieminen 3–6, 7–5, 3–1 (retired), and Milos Raonic hung on to beat France’s Jeremy Chardy 6–3, 4–6, 7–5.
The one Canadian man to not make it past the first round was 25-year-old Peter Polansky, ranked No. 256, who lost Monday night in three sets to the ninth-seeded Kei Nishikori 4–6, 6–4, 6–2.
The biggest thrills came from Pospisil who was taking on the 6-foot-9-inch Isner who just lost in the final of the Citi Open in Washington, D.C. on Sunday. Isner, the 20th ranked player, hammered down 24 aces and was up a set and a break in the second set, but Pospisil never quit.
“Mentally, I felt great on the court,” Pospisil told Sportsnet. Pospisil entered the tournament having just won the Vancouver Open.
Peliwo, the youngest Canadian man at 19 and lowest ranked at No. 355, got the better of Nieminen when the Finn had to quit in the third set due to a hamstring injury.
Dancevic, the oldest Canadian at 28, was too strong in the final frame against Lu. He fired 16 aces and recorded a 69 percent first serve percentage.
Dancevic’s big contribution to Canada’s Davis Cup hopes came against Spain in the first round when he notched a routine win over Marcel Granollers.
Raonic Gets Through
Top-ranked Canadian Raonic, 22, struggled against the No. 28 player in the world Chardy.
Raonic started strongly breaking Chardy twice to take the first set. But, in his red shirt with a white maple leaf on it, he dropped the second set after yielding a break of serve.
The third set stayed on serve until the 12th game in which Raonic found himself with triple break point.
“He had one opportunity and made the most of it,” Raonic told Sportsnet.
Raonic under Croatian coach Ivan Ljubicic has struggled winning only two of his last six matches prior to the Rogers Cup. His backhand and return of serve are two areas needing improvement.
“I think I’m getting better,” he said. “I got to make it difficult on my opponent.” Raonic spoke about needing to establish a rally and then using his forehand.
While the top-ranked Canadian wasn’t at his best, he got through. But, he has plenty of company from his countrymen in the second round.
“To see these kinds of results, the positive atmosphere around Canadian tennis…it’s great to see this kind of reaction,” Raonic said.
Pospisil echoed those comments. “It just shows what an incredible job Tennis Canada has been doing,” he said.
The Canadian men will compete in the semifinals of the Davis Cup in September against Serbia who is led by the top player in the world, Novak Djokovic.
The Rogers Cup in Montreal has attracted eight of the top ten players in the world with only Roger Federer (No. 5) and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (No. 8) missing out.
Follow Rahul on Twitter @RV_ETSports