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Match of the Day: Felix Auger-Aliassime vs. Vasek Pospisil, Vienna
Pospisil is 0-3 against the talented 20-year-old, but has yet to play his countryman when fully healthy. He’ll get his chance Wednesday.
October 27, 2020
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Vasek Pospisil is a confident and proud young man. And why wouldn’t he be? He’s a 6’4” stallion with a Wimbledon doubles trophy on his mantle. But unlike many other athletes, the maple syrup-chugging, mushroom-supplementing Canadian’s interests aren’t limited to crushing serves and sticking volleys. He is a natural-born leader. Which is why in August, the 30-year-old resigned from his position on the ATP Player Council to spearhead the formation of the Professional Tennis Players Association, alongside world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.
“I found it very difficult, if not impossible, to have any significant impact on major decisions made by our tour,” Pospisil said. “Our voices will finally be heard and we will soon have an impact on decisions that affect our lives and livelihoods.”
If there is a problem, it’s in Pospisil’s nature to try and solve it, and the newly formed association is sure to present him with plenty of them moving forward. But for now, Pospisil is focused on another issue at hand, finally defeating his good friend and countryman Felix Auger-Aliassime.
The 20-year-old first edged him 6-2, 7-6 (4), in 2018 at Indian Wells, then beat him in four sets at Wimbledon in 2019, and finally defeated him in a third-set tiebreaker last year in Montreal. It’s a dominant head-to-head record, but it’s worth nothing that in each of those meetings Pospisil was struggling physically (with a herniated disk in his back, or recovering from the back surgery that sidelined him for over three months at the beginning of the 2019 season).
For the first time in a long time, Pospisil is fully healthy, and his recent results speak for themselves. In 2020, Pospisil has defeated five Top-20 players: Daniil Medvedev, David Goffin, Denis Shapovalov, Milos Raonic and Roberto Bautista Agut.
I’m not a psychologist, but I imagine that after three consecutive losses, Pospisil really wants to turn the tides against his country’s rising star. Wednesday in Vienna presents him with his best chance yet—fully healthy, and on his favorite surface, a quick indoor hard court.
“Felix and Denis have come and done something that no other Canadians have done… They are already doing these amazing things,” Pospisil told ATPTour.com this September. “That is natural. That is normal. But, of course, Milos and I are obviously still here and playing at a really high level.”
Pospisil, who snuck through the qualifying draw with two three-set victories over Alexander Erler and Jasong Jung, will have his work cut out for him. Auger-Aliassime is playing well, losing to Alexander Zverev in the final of the first edition of ATP Cologne, and reaching the third round of Cologne’s second week before falling 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 to Diego Schwartzman.
One of the sport’s more aggressive players, Pospisil will need to choose his spots wisely against Auger-Aliassime. His transition game is fantastic and his volleys are crisp, but simply rushing the net against an athlete of FAA’s caliber is unwise.
On a crucial love-30 point at four-all in the third in Montreal, Pospisil, likely feeling the pressure of the moment, charged the net on the heels of a weak return and paid the price:
Few players cover the net as well as Pospisil, so when given the right opportunity, he should approach to Auger-Aliassime’s backhand, like this:
Pospisil’s intimidating net presence alone will force more than a few errors on the quick Vienna court. He’ll have to hit his spots, though, as FAA’s explosiveness provides him passing shot windows that are unavailable to most other players. Here, Pospisil hits a pretty great approach shot, but Auger-Aliassime snuffs it out all too easily:
Whether it’s a topspin backhand or a skidding slice, Pospisil must steer the ball away from the middle of the court. The 20-year-old’s mid-court forehand is on the short list of the world’s best shots. Here, Pospisil is unable to direct his backhand cross-court, and Auger-Aliassime sends him to the races:
According the the oddsmakers, the younger Canadian is listed as a solid -185 favorite, meaning a $100 bet will win you about $55. While Auger-Aliassime can surely win on Wednesday, that line underestimates the power of the revenge factor in tennis. It’s a real thing, and anyone who’s ever had to play a quality player several times in a row knows that.
It’s extremely difficult to defeat the same opponent over and over again, especially one as dangerous as Pospisil. Just in the past week, we’ve seen four separate revenge matches. Sabalenka lost a heartbreaking match to Coco Gauff in Lexington, but turned it around down 5-2 in the third to edge the American in Ostrava. Victoria Azarenka throttled Sabalenka at the US Open, but lost 6-2, 6-2 in the Ostrava final last weekend. Jannik Sinner ousted Alexander Zverev at Roland Garros, only to lose in straight sets the second time around in Cologne. Yoshihito Nishioka handled Auger-Aliassime in straight sets in Paris, but lost to the Canadian last week 6-3, 6-4.
This time around, expect Pospisil to will his way to victory against his good friend and Davis Cup teammate.
The Pick: Vasek Pospisil