By Mike McIntyre
Just when you thought that Canada had accomplished all of its possible firsts in professional tennis this year, they strike again.
At the Citi Open in Washington D.C., Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil have ensured an all-Canadian final on the ATP World Tour for the first time in the Open Era of the sport which goes back to 1968.
The timing of this momentous achievement could not come at a better time for Tennis Canada as it is on the eve of Canada's marquee event - The Rogers Cup, which begins Monday in Toronto for the men and in Montreal for the women.
While Raonic (being the number two seed at the Citi Open this year) was what many would say the favourite to make the finals prior to the start of competition earlier in the week, Pospisil was anything but. His season was derailed early by a back injury that saw him miss a month following his third round withdrawal at the Australian Open and hindered him so much that he went on to lose an astounding eight opening round matches in-a-row when he returned to action. After that horrific five month period Pospisil was able to re-discover his form on grass with a quarter-final result in the Netherlands. The turning point however might have been his shocking doubles victory at Wimbledon with American partner Jack Sock. Buoyed with a new sense of confidence in his play and with his back, Pospisil is now finally seeing the returns everyone expected when he made it to the semi-finals of the Rogers Cup nearly a year ago.
Pospisil lost that semi-final to Raonic in their only professional match to-date against one another. On Sunday we will see if he can even the score, although the odds are stacked against him. Not only has Raonic been coasting through his matches all week, but he played the early semi-final on Saturday and is clearly the more rested of the two players. Pospisil had to begin Saturday by finishing his rain-delayed quarter-final match against Santiago Giraldo before playing again just a few hours later against the talented Richard Gasquet of France. In that match Pospisil had to battle back from a one set deficit and a 0-3 hole in the third and decisive set before prevailing 6-7(5), 6-3, 7-5 in 2hrs 28 minutes.
Regardless of the outcome the result will be a victory for Canada, a country that is quickly establishing itself as a new power on both the ATP and WTA circuits. Not only that, but the Rogers Cup is getting some free publicity that it could never have imagined just a day before the main draw is set to begin there.
While some might say the newfound hype surrouding Canadian tennis is overkill, I say they've waited long enough and we should let Canada enjoy the first of what we hope will be many finals and championships for their promising young tennis players.