WIMBLEDON, ENGLAND — The Pospisil took a licking.
Not a complete thrashing, not an utter demolition. But still, let’s not spin the truth, a straight set quarter-finals loss to the darling of British tennis.
Vasek Pospisil was game, just nowhere near good enough to halt Andy Murray’s progression to the semifinals of a tournament he won two years ago. Though the Scotsman next has to content with the serenely imperious Roger Federer, who finally dropped a serve game, whilst eliminating Frenchman Gilles Simon.
Give the qualifier 23-year-old from Vernon, B.C., this much: He dusted off at least one Brit and two seeded opponents en route to Wednesday’s Centre Court contest with the No. 3 seed at SW19.
Advanced further than other Canadian at the All England Club this time ’round, only the second male from the colonies do get inside the Final 8 in the Open era.
That should provide considerable comfort in a few days time, when the amiable young man gets around to truly digesting events of the past fortnight.
Just don’t pretend, as some overly excitable commentators are already claiming, that Pospisil got a bum rap from the chair umpire, who may be a fussy pedantic but had the rules very much on his side, in first warning and then penalizing the Canuck for the time he was taking between serves.
What Pospisil was doing was taking some preciously extended rests, as he was clearly exhausted after playing 19 single sets and a dozen sets of doubles.
As fit as he may be, the poor guy was entirely spent, thighs quivering on all those run-down balls — reaching nowhere near enough of them, especially in the long rallies that were clearly a tactical plan for Murray — and simultaneously dealing with the keen if exquisite pressure of taking on a British luminary, in front of a partisan crowd that included the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (that’s William and Kate), David Beckham and marathon goddess Paula Radcliff, on the most legendary sward of grass in tennis.
That it ended 6-4, 7-5, 6-4 should surprise nobody. That it was the unseeded Pospisil, with a world ranking of 56 on the ATP computer — that’s the stunning part, not to be forgotten in the lament (from a Canadian perspective) of this outcome.
Pospisil has gone from being a nobody — at least beyond the tennis cognoscenti — to being a somebody, perchance a near-equal to his compatriots Milos Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard, who disappeared from Wimbledon what now feels like ages ago. (And for Bouchard, flicked off in the first round, it was.)
Both players, Pospisil and Murray, opened with nice clean starts, each holding to live in their service games. Pospisil had to chase, though, in his next service, which featured an exciting double-figure strokes exchange — Murray at the net, Pospisil picking up the volley to hit into the empty court, Murray in hot pursuit of another drop shot, the pointing finished off at the net in Murray’s break favor,
It was 3-1 when the rain moved in, forcing a 40-minute stand-down as the players retired from the court — though officials did not take advantage of that opportunity by closing the roof.
The shower-burst gave Pospisil a second chance to make a good impression and he did look feistier, more like he belonged, upon resumption of play, with some magnificent retrievals. But, handed an opening to break Murray back, he failed to seize the moment on an overhead smash, knocking the ball into the net, and the Scotsman held serve.
There were brilliant rallies and exchanges as the match continued but an inevitability settled over the affair when Pospisil was broken in the 11th game of the second set — after some energy-sapping points — which Murray went on to win 7-5.
Just before that set concluded (5-5, 30-all), Pospisil was warned by the chair umpire, first time, about delay — which seemed a bit harsh, whilst losing his serve and about to go two sets down.
Pospisil was clearly annoyed by the intrusion, which may have messed with his timing and state of mind. In any event, he took a bathroom break between sets and then came back to cast another glance at his ever-present little blue book.
Nothing he read there made any impact, though Pospisil did save a couple of service games that seemed on the verge of being lost. The time violation penalty was issued during Game 9 of that third set — boos even from the Murray-adoring crowd — but Pospisil got all tangled up in an improvised return shot between the legs, and the home-boy had another break 5-4, then serving out for the set and the match at 6-4.
It had not unfolded quite so seamlessly for the Scotsman as most had anticipated, yet nevertheless stuck close enough Pospisil’s pre-written and pre-filed Wimbledon obituary.
The pundits had come this close to calling him totally rank, while conceding that, yeah, the Canadian seemed a nice chap. And Lord, he’d played a lot of tennis — nearly 20 hours on the courts before this quarters had even begun.
But the facts are the facts: Pospisil had never taken so much as a set off Murray in their previous encounters.
And look at the numbers:
Career grand slam record for Murray 149-35; for Pospisil 10-11.
Career record for Murray 526-157; for Pospisil 61-74.
Wimbledon record for Murray 45-8; for Pospisil 5-3.
Titles for Murray 5; titles for Pospisil 0.
He was the lowest-ranked player, by a comfortable margin, left in the men’s draw.
Pospisil’s teensiest advantage might have been his big serve, but he had no answer for Murray’s serve to the forehand.
For Murray, who’s reached the Wimbledon semis five times before, it was his 150th Grand Slam match won.
Fresh and fearless was fine for Pospisil. It just wasn’t anywhere near good enough.