Leylah Fernandez, of Canada, returns a shot to Sofia Kenin, of the United States, during the second round of the US Open tennis championships, Thursday, Sept. 3, 2020, in New York. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Vasek Pospisil knocks off Milos Raonic in all-Canadian clash at U.S. Open

Pospisil will play in the third round of U.S. Open for the first time

NEW YORK — After a big run last week at the U.S. Open venue, Milos Raonic’s hopes of doing the same thing at the actual Grand Slam were dashed by a fellow Canadian.

Vancouver’s Vasek Pospisil upset the No. 25 seed from Thornhill, Ont., 6-7 (1), 6-3, 7-6 (4), 6-3 in a second-round match on Thursday.

“Playing Milos is never easy, because he’s the kind of player that has so many weapons,” Pospisil said. “When he has time on the ball he puts you on the defensive, and that’s not where you want to be when you’re playing him.

“I just wanted to take time away.”

Pospisil said both players took time getting comfortable playing against a familiar opponent.

“I think the first set it had a bit of an effect on both of us,” he said. ”I could feel there were a little bit of nerves on the court form both sides, and then I felt a lot more comfortable as the match went on. I found a really good groove and I was moving really well.

“I mean he’s serving incredibly well, but I got a relatively good read on his serve.”

Raonic advanced to the final last week at the Western & Southern Open — moved to New York from Cincinnati because of the COVID-19 pandemic — before losing to top-ranked Novak Djokovic in three sets. All matches at both tournaments have been played in front of no fans.

“If you look at is a whole, I think there’s lot of good that comes from it,” Raonic said. “If somebody told me I was going to pick up 645 or whatever points it is at the start of it, I would have found that to be good news. Overall, a lot of positives to take. Obviously, today’s going to bug me for a bit. I’ve just got to see the whole thing as a bigger picture.”

Pospisil, ranked 93rd in the world, will play in the third round of the U.S. Open for the first time. He’ll face No. 8 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain.

“Very solid player, super fit,” Pospisil said of Bautista Agut. “He gets to a lot of balls, but I definitely have some weapons in my arsenal that hopefully will disturb him.”

Raonic was 0-for-5 on break-point opportunities against his longtime Canadian rival. Both players were born in 1990.

“Playing a Canadian is always tricky, especially someone like Milos who I’ve know for my whole tennis career,” Pospisil said. ”We grew up together, we were the top two in Canada for our age groups, we’re the same age so obviously we have a little bit of a history.”

While Raonic is known for having one of the best serves in tennis, Pospisil was right there with him on Thursday. Both players won 82 per cent of points when they got their first serve in.

“When he needed it, he stepped up every time,” Raonic said.

The lifetime series on the top tour is now tied at 2-2.

“It adds a little bit of another emotional aspect to it,” Raonic said. “It’s not necessarily easy to play completely free in that sense, but you sort of go in expecting that. Going into today, there were certain things I wanted to do and I sort of never got my game free and flowing in that match. He had a big part to do with that with how he was playing.”

Montreal’s Felix Auger-Aliassime, the 15th seed in the men’s singles tournament, beat Andy Murray in straight sets Thursday night.

Auger-Aliassime’s 6-2, 6-3, 6-4 victory allowed him to give Canada three men in the third round of a Grand Slam tournament for the first time, joining Pospisil and Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont.

Auger-Aliassime compiled a 52-9 edge in winners and never allowed Murray to earn a single break point.

Earlier, Canada’s Leylah Annie Fernandez lost 6-4, 6-3 to No. 2 seed Sofia Kenin of the United States in a second-round women’s match.

A 17-year-old left-hander from Laval, Que., Fernandez was disappointed with her performance against the world No. 4 and the 2020 Australian Open champ.

“She’s top five for a reason,” Fernandez said. “She puts a lot of balls back in and she played a great match today, but honestly I didn’t play well. I made too many mistakes.

“Not to take anything away from Sofia, she played really well. But at most today, I must have played maybe a two out of 10 and that’s me being kind to myself.”

Fernandez was coming off her first career Grand Slam main-draw victory as she beat world No. 178 Vera Zvonareva of Russia in straight sets on Tuesday.

Kenin provided much tougher opposition as the two squared off at Arthur Ashe Stadium — the biggest court on the U.S. Open grounds.

Fernandez, ranked 104th, didn’t look overwhelmed by the moment.

After losing her serve in the third game of the first set, Fernandez held serve the rest of the set. With Kenin serving for the set, Fernandez got it to 30-30 before the powerful American unleashed two winners.

Kenin then took charge in the second set, breaking Fernandez to take a 2-1 lead before finishing off the Canadian with another service break.

Kenin dominated on Fernandez’s second serve. The Canadian won only 29 per cent of points on her second serve.

Fernandez also made seven more unforced errors than Kenin (25-18), and the American had a small edge in winners (19-17).

Playing at Ashe was special for Fernandez.

“It was a great feeling, I’m not going to lie,” she said. “It’s nice to be playing in that historic stadium. I’ve been seeing so many great players play there on TV. I set my mind on I want to be playing there one day. It was a great sensation. Hopefully, I’ll have many more matches on that court.”

This is the first full year on the women’s circuit for Fernandez, who turns 18 on Sunday. She won the French Open girls title last year.

Toronto’s Sharon Fichman and Croatian partner Darija Jurak lost 6-2, 7-6 (6) to No. 4 seeds Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic and Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands in a first-round women’s doubles match Thursday.

Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski and American partner Alison Riske beat Russians Natela Dzalamidze and Irina Khromacheva 6-3, 6-2 in another women’s doubles first-round match.

Shapovalov and his partner Rohan Bopanna of India led 6-3, 3-2 over Americans Ernesto Escobedo and Noah Rubin before play was suspended in a first-round men’s doubles match Thursday.

Shapovalov, seeded 12th in men’s singles, will play his third-round match against No. 19 seed Taylor Fritz of the U.S. on Friday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 3, 2020.

Tennis

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