Tennis

Tebbutt: Vasek through to round two

It was never quite as easy as it could have been, but Vasek Pospisil reached the second round of US Open qualifying on Wednesday evening with a 7-6(2), 6-4 win over Sumit Nagal.

After breaking to 3-1, Pospisil was always ahead during the opening set. But the No. 464-ranked Indian somehow kept leveling the score even though it seemed as if Pospisil’s superior power and variety was, at any minute, about to give him the separation he needed to take a stranglehold on the set.

As it turned out, that separation came in the set-deciding tiebreak when he hit an ace on the first point and then put away two clean forehand volleys to grab a 3-0 (two mini-break) lead.

He really never looked back, and stayed in front by breaking his 25-year-old opponent to 2-1 in the second set.

Nagal managed to hang around and made things a bit dicey in the final game when he held a break point, which Pospisil quashed with a service winner.

The numbers were decidedly in Pospisil’s favour – 40 winners and 32 unforced errors to just eight winners and 26 unforced errors for Nagal. The most glaring one was Pospisil winning 65 per cent of second-serve points to just 29 per cent for Nagal.

“I was trying not to stay frustrated,” Pospisil said about that first set when he struggled to gain control. “I wasn’t panicking but then maybe I didn’t raise the intensity enough until I needed to in the tiebreak.

“Honestly I thought I played a great match even though it was tough to breathe. I think the only area where I wasn’t 100 per cent was maybe physically. I didn’t have the capacity to go too many long points in a row. I think that was also the reason why I didn’t run away with it earlier on in the first set – just knowing that it was kind of heavy conditions and not so easy to breathe. So I didn’t want to gas myself too quickly.”

Apropos of that, when asked if he was happy to have saved the break point in the final game, he smiled and replied, “oh yeah. That’s for sure. It could have been a long one if it got away from me in that last game.”

Summing up his tennis at the moment, he said, “I played really well last week (in Vancouver). I played three good opponents and I lost to a tough opponent in the semis (No. 64-ranked Arthur Rinderknech of France). The previous weeks I was playing well but I just had some physical issues. Overall I feel like I can get on a hot run at some point – just sticking with it, working hard and see how it goes.”

In Thursday’s second round he will face Andreas Seppi. The 38-year-old Italian is now ranked No. 196 after being as high as No. 18 in 2015.

“Seppi I’ve played several times,” Pospisil said. The actual number is five times, with the Italian leading 3-2, but the last time was in 2016 at the Italian Open.    

GENIE VS PROMISING TEEN

In second-round qualifying action on Thursday, Genie Bouchard will play 2021 Roland Garros junior champion Linda Noskova. The 17-year-old Czech started 2022 ranked outside the top 250 and has moved up to No. 87 (and is seeded No. 4 in the qualifying) after good performances such as qualifying for the French Open and pushing Emma Raducanu to 6-7(4), 7-5, 6-1 in the first round as well as reaching the semi-final of the Prague Open WTA 250 event in July, defeating Alizé Cornet in the second round. She has won six ITF titles over the past 18 months.

Noskova, who turns 18 in November, and Bouchard, 28, will be facing each other for the first time.

For Bouchard, 28, this is her eighth US Open – with her best result being the round-of-16 in 2014 and 2015. She has reached the semi-finals of both the Australia and French Opens and the final of Wimbledon – all in 2014.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of her 2012 junior Wimbledon victory with a win over Elina Svitolina in the final.

The Bouchard – Noskova match will be first on Court 17 at 11 a.m.  

FELIX IS ON SITE

Félix Auger-Aliassime arrived at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on Wednesday – he didn’t practice but took part in the ‘Tennis Plays For Peace (in Ukraine)’ exhibition in Louis Armstrong Stadium at night.

He did a photo shoot for sponsor Adidas earlier Wednesday and it was learned that he will be wearing a new outfit for the US Open – basically, it’s similar to what he has worn this summer but more of a combo of black and purple.  

COOL IN THE SHADE

If you ever wondered which is the best side to sit on in Arthur Ashe Stadium at 2:30 p.m. at this time of year – this picture of Nick Kyrgios and Jack Sock practicing in the stadium on Wednesday provides the answer. There are other tournaments – most notably Indian Wells – where spectators also flock to the shaded side…if there are seats available.

A GREAT DAY FOR FOG

The mercury reached 31 degrees in New York on Wednesday and this young guy found a way, with a little help from an adult, to briefly cool off.

THE NETFLIX CREW

There’s a Netflix crew following players around the tour this year and this appears to possibly be them getting footage of Ons Jabeur and Maria Sakkari playing around on the practice courts Wednesday.

DRAW FOR US OPEN ’22

There will be no fanfare, grand occasion or even live-streaming as they tend to do at both the Australian and French Opens – Wimbledon prefers a traditional pulling numbers out of cloth poach in a tranquil media interview room – when the US Open draw is done on Thursday. According to a USTA official, it will simply be ‘released’ at about noon ET.

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