Canada’s Vasek Pospisil celebrates during a match against the United States' Tommy Paul during National Bank Open men's tennis action, in Toronto, Monday, Aug. 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Christopher Katsarov

Amanda Anisimova hitting her stride in Montreal as she looks to return to 2019 form

Amanda Anisimova hitting her stride in Montreal as she looks to return to 2019 form

Canadian Vasek Pospisil was halfway to the second round at the National Bank Open before falling to Tommy Paul of the United States in three sets on Monday.

The 24-year-old qualifier took the match 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3 in two hours 21 minutes.

Pospisil, ranked 61st in the world, started slow as the 56th-ranked American broke him to open the match before the Canadian put a shot long and fell behind 2-0.

The 31-year-old Pospisil got over his shaky start, though, and rebounded with two aces on his next service game — seven in the opening set — and eventually broke Paul’s serve for the first time to make it 4-4.

The Vancouver native grabbed his first lead at 5-4 and was consistent enough the rest of the way to win the tiebreak and take the set in just over an hour.

After a seven-minute break between sets, Pospisil found himself in a similar situation to start the second after not being able to hold serve, putting a forehand long to fall into a 2-0 hole.

He was able to break Paul’s next serve only to give it back, and appeared to be cramping when Paul held serve to go up 4-1.

Pospisil, in the tournament as a wild card, wound up with four double faults and was broken three times on his way to dropping the set in 35 minutes.

Pospisil spent time between the second and third set with a fan under his shirt in an apparent attempt to cool down from the heat. He also met with medical staff in the third while trailing 2-1, but continued to push through whatever might have been ailing him as the crowd cheered him on with every serve.

Paul stayed determined not to let Pospisil gain any momentum, and broke the Canadian one last time to go up 5-3 holding serve for the match.

Pospisil battled three break points but couldn’t avoid elimination as Canada’s most decorated Olympian Penny Oleksiak watched from the crowd on hand in Toronto.

Up next for Paul is 10th-seeded Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain, who has a first-round bye.

Meanwhile, Leylah Fernandez of Laval, Que., was ousted in Montreal in the evening session by Britain’s Harriet Dart.

Dart toppled Fernandez 7-5, 7-6 (4) to set up a second-round date with second-seeded Canadian Bianca Andreescu, who is the defending champion on the women’s side.

The tournament, formerly known as the Rogers Cup, was not held in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tennis Canada is allowing 5,000 fans this year for each of the day and night sessions at centre court in Montreal, and 4,500 per session in Toronto.

Earlier, 19-year-old American Amanda Anisimova advanced to the second round of the women’s tournament after her opponent, Tereza Martincova of the Czech Republic, retired with Anisimova leading 6-1, 4-3.

Anisimova said she feels like she is in a groove after advancing to the main draw in Montreal through the qualifying tournament.

“I think it was good that I got a couple matches in (qualifiers),” she said. “I have a couple matches to back me up and give me some confidence in the main draw.”

Wins have been hard to come by recently for Anisimova, who entered Montreal with a 9-11 record on the year.

She was a breakout star in 2019, reaching a career-high ranking of No. 21 on the WTA Tour. She had her greatest success on clay with a win at the Copa Colsanitas in Colombia and a run to the semifinal of the French Open.

Following the death of her father, who was also her coach, Anisimova withdrew from the 2019 U.S. Open, and only played two more events that year. In the following years, back and ankle injuries have taken their toll. Anisimova entered the National Bank Open ranked 86th.

She hopes to put those injury troubles behind her.

“I have a good fitness coach now,” she said. “I’ve been working with Rob Brandsma. I think that’s been going so well for me.

“I feel better and I feel stronger. Hopefully I can just build on that this year. I’m looking forward to this season and U.S. Open.”

In another early match at centre court, Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic convincingly defeated world No. 29 Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia 6-1, 6-3.

In other matches in Montreal, 11th-seed Maria Sakkari of Greece advanced when Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic retired. Sakkari was up 6-4, 3-1 at the time.

“Well, you know, it was a little bit — it was shocking when I walked on the court and there was a crowd,” Sakkari said. “I haven’t seen that since Roland Garros. That was a very nice thing.”

France’s Oceane Dodin upset 14th seed Karolina Muchova of the Czech Republic 6-3, 1-6, 6-2, and 13th seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia downed Clara Burel of France 6-1, 6-3.

Romania’s Sorana Cirstea beat American Alison Riske, Nadia Podoroska of Argentina beat Magda Linette of Poland, Spain’s Paula Badosa downed Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland and Ajla Tomljanovic of Australia advanced when opponent Fiona Ferro of France retired.

Vancouver’s Rebecca Marino was scheduled to play later Monday.

In the men’s tournament, Marin Cilic of Croatia fired 13 aces in a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 victory over Spain’s Albert Ramos-Vinolas, while Ugo Humbert of France beat Lorenzo Sonego of Italy 6-3, 6-4.

Italy’s Fabio Fognini beat Germany’s Jan-Lennard Struff in three sets, while Australian qualifier James Duckworth downed Taylor Fritz of the United States in straight sets.

Qualifier Brayden Schnur of Pickering, Ont., the first Canadian in main-draw action, lost 6-3, 6-2 to South Africa’s Lloyd Harris.

In doubles action, Montreal’s Felix Auger-Aliassime and Alexis Galarneau of Laval, Que., fell 6-4, 7-6 (6) to Russians Karen Khachanov and Andrey Rublev.

“I thought we played a good match, to be honest,” Auger-Aliassime said. “You know, they played good in the first set. We did small mistakes.

“Then the second set it was really unlucky. We missed some crazy shots in the tiebreak that we shouldn’t have, but that’s how it goes. It happens.”

Auger-Aliassime will play his first singles match Wednesday after getting a first-round bye.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 9, 2021.

The Canadian Press

Tennis