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Indian Wells: Pospisil wins doubles title, Raonic out at semis

Feature Photo via BNP Paribas Open

Canada’s Vasek Pospisil won his fourth career doubles title – the third with American partner Jack Sock – at Indian Wells, California on Saturday.

The Wimbledon champs beat Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini of Italy 6-4, 6-7 (7-3), 10-7 to take their first ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy.

The win means Pospisil is the only Canadian to leave the tournament with a title, the outcome arriving a few hours after Milos Raonic was eliminated in the semifinals of men’s singles by Roger Federer.

The North Americans won a break point on the fifth game, it was all the advantage they needed in the first set to serve out a 6-4 win. They quickly went up a break in the opening game of the second set but their Italian opponents clawed back to force and win the tiebreak 7-3.

In the match tiebreak to 10 points – how doubles are decided in this competition – Pospisil and Sock took a commanding 8-3 lead before losing a mini-break. At 9-4 they lost the next three points before serving to take the match at 10-7.

Jack Sock (left) and Vasek Pospisil, photo via BNP Paribas Open, March 19, 2015.

Jack Sock (left) and Vasek Pospisil, photo via BNP Paribas Open, March 2015.

Pospisil called the win “another milestone” and “really special.” He heads to Miami now, where fellow Canadians Raonic and Eugenie Bouchard are listed to compete in singles. Full draw for singles and doubles are yet to come.

“It’s been an incredible week. We played well every match. We played great tennis. It’s just thrilling to end the week like that and go into Miami with some big confidence,” Pospisil said.

Raonic v. Federer

Milos Raonic in action at Indian Wells, California in a Masters 1000 tournament in March, 2015.

Milos Raonic in action at Indian Wells, California in a Masters 1000 tournament in March, 2015.

He beat the world number three on Friday, but the no. 2 proved one step too far for Milos Raonic on Saturday, as he bowed out of Indian Wells at the semifinals.

Federer employed a characteristic match, with intelligent returns and limited errors to win 7-5, 6-4 over Raonic to set up a final against top ranked Novak Djokovic.

The Canadian was well in the contest in the first set until two missed returns down the line that had Raonic face double break point at 5-5. He got one of those back with an ace and Federer hit long during the next rally to end the immediate danger. However, next time Federer had a break point, he made it count with Raonic slicing a backhand wide. The Swiss player then served out the set at love to win 7-5.

The second set started ominously for Raonic, facing a double break point situation once more. As he did in the first set, the Canadian fought back to erase the deficit, but a pair of precise backhand shots from Federer on the next two points gave the more experienced player the game. Federer consolidated for some early breathing room at 2-0.

Down 2-1, Raonic had a break point and a chance to get back in the match until Federer pulled him back in to save the game and keep his lead. On the last game down 5-4 Raonic took a love-30 lead needing a break. Yet once more, Federer, 33, nine years Raonic’s senior, found a way to keep the emerging player at bay to win the match.

Despite the loss, Raonic enjoyed a breakthrough in Californian this week, beating world no. 3 Rafael Nadal on Friday.

Djokovic made quick work of no. 4 Andy Murray in the other semifinal 6-2, 6-3.

Friday: Raonic beats Nadal, Pospisil to doubles final

Milos Raonic served notice that he will be looking to crash the ‘top four’ party in men’s tennis this season, after he pushed world number three Rafael Nadal out of Indian Wells 4-6, 7-6 (12-10) 7-5.

At the season’s first Masters 1000 event in the ATP World Tour, Raonic, the number six-ranked player in men’s singles, settled down after a plethora of unforced errors under the California sun. Nadal couldn’t put Raonic away in the second set and paid dearly in the third when the underdog got the break he needed before serving out the quarterfinal match to secure a semifinal date against no. 3 Roger Federer on Saturday.

Milos Raonic in action at Indian Wells, California in a Masters 1000 tournament in March, 2015.

Milos Raonic in action at Indian Wells, California in a Masters 1000 tournament in March, 2015.

Raonic’s win wasn’t the only good news for Canadian tennis on the night. The first triumph was followed by Vasek Pospisil and his American partner Jack Sock beating Marcin Matkowski of Poland and Nenad Zimonjic (Serbia) 6-4, 3-6, 10-6 to book a place in the men’s doubles final also set for Saturday. More on that below.

Nadal had a furious start to the quarterfinal contest, breaking Raonic’s second service game amid winning 11 consecutive points. The rest of the opening set went without a hitch for the Spaniard, who won 6-4 after strategically standing several metres back of the baseline to defend against Raonic’s 220 km/h serves.

Raonic later talked about the “ups and downs” of the match, and although he only dropped one game, for more than half the match it looked like Nadal would be unbeatable, reaching just about every ball on the court, placing some returns inside the baseline from seemingly impossible angles.

Nadal’s defensive strategy held Raonic to just 11 aces in the first two sets, but the Canadian’s return game improved toward the sharp end of the second, holding off five break points to force Nadal into a tiebreak. There, the two men closely stalked each other by trading shots. Raonic stared down three match points, his serves found consistency and a mini-break allowed him to win the second set 7-6 (12-10).

“The most important thing I can take from this is the way I competed,” Raonic told the tournament organizers following the match. “There was a lot of difficult moments, a lot of ups and downs in that much. I just tried to stick it through and try to make the most of every possibility.”

In the final set, Raonic faced a break point at 3-3. What could’ve been a pivotal moment against the Canadian, Raonic again turned it around with superb composure to hold serve. At 5-5, he broke Nadal when the Spaniard missed a return before closing out the two hour, 58-minute contest on double match point.

“It’s obviously great,” the Canadian said. “It’s great on its own to keep myself pushing on to the semifinals here in Indian Wells for the first time, and also the big significance of getting my first win over Rafael Nadal. It’s all in all a good day.”

Raonic’s serve seemed to break Nadal down as the match went on. He landed eight aces in the final set for a total of 19 on the night. It was also his first win over Nadal in six meetings.

“Everything other than the first set came down to a few points here and there,” reflected Raonic.

“Giving myself another chance against one of the big three or big four is a great opportunity. I’m trying to make the most of it, which I was able to today, now I face another one in that group, (I’ll) try to make the most of it again.”

Raonic will play Federer in the second semifinal on Saturday. Federer defeated Tomas Berdych convincingly 6-4, 6-0. The first semifinal will be contested between top ranked Novak Djokovic and no. 4 Andy Murray. Raonic is the only non top-four player in the semifinals.

Immediately after Raonic’s win, Pospisil took the court in a men’s doubles semifinal. A day after securing that berth by upsetting top seed Bob and Mike Bryan 6-4, 6-4 in the quarterfinals, Wimbledon champions Pospisil and Sock took three sets to win their match and will compete for the doubles title against Italian pair Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini.

Both Raonic and Pospisil will play on Saturday. Sportsnet One is currently slated to air matches from 2 p.m. ET.

Wednesday: Raonic to quarters

Despite struggling to place his first serves, Canadian star Milos Raonic got it done on Wednesday against Tommy Robredo in straight sets 6-3, 6-2 for a date against Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals of Indian Wells.

Sixth seed Raonic landed just six aces and less than fifty percent of his first serves. But the Canadian kept the experienced 17-seed Robredo from gaining any momentum by winning three break points and saving the only one he faced against his Spanish opponent. Raonic also employed a superior return game to Robredo, helping the Canadian to win the third of all three matches between the two players.

Milos Raonic and Rafael Nadal shake hands after the Spaniard beat the Canadian in Miami late 2014.

Milos Raonic and Rafael Nadal shake hands after the Spaniard beat the Canadian in Miami late 2014.

The win now sets up a showdown against Nadal, who beat Frenchman Gilles Simon 6-2, 6-4. The world no. 3 player has won this tournament three times. Nadal, 28, has beaten the 24-year old Raonic in all five meetings between the two. In their last outing, Raonic took the first set in the 2014 Miami Masters before Nadal bounced back to win 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.

Tuesday: Raonic advances, Pospisil wins doubles

Canada once more turns to Milos Raonic for its tennis fix and the man delivered again at Indian Wells, California on Tuesday.

Tennis Canada’s Raonic beat Alexandr Dolgopolov of Ukraine 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 on his side of the draw that includes potential matchups against Rafael Nadal in the quarterfinals and Roger Federer in the semis should Raonic continue to advance.

The tournament at Indian Wells is an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event. It is among the most prestigious outside of the four Grand Slam tourneys and the World Tour Finals.

Milos Raonic - 2014 Rogers Cup quarterfinals

Milos Raonic – 2014 Rogers Cup quarterfinals

Raonic’s next opponent is Spain’s Tommy Robredo, who pulled off a three-set upset over 11th seed Grigor Dimitrov on Tuesday. Robredo holds down the17th seed in California, Raonic is seeded sixth. The match is scheduled to take place on Wednesday.

More good news for Canadian tennis came from this month’s Davis Cup hero Vasek Pospisil. Ousted by the resurgent Andy Murray in the singles draw, Pospisil’s reunion with his Wimbledon doubles-winning partner Jack Sock has yielded two wins, but they’re now set to meet the top doubles duo on the planet, the Bryan brothers Bob and Mike in the quarterfinals.

Vasek Pospisil left shakes hands with Andy Murray at the net after their singles match at Indian Well, California in March 2015.

Vasek Pospisil left shakes hands with Andy Murray at the net after their singles match at Indian Well, California in March 2015.

The news isn’t so good on the women’s side of the draw, however. Eugenie Bouchard was pushed out in the fourth round by Lesia Tsurenko of Ukraine, who had to play through qualifiers for a place in the main draw, but is making the most of it. On Tuesday Tsurenko bounced back from losing the first set in a tiebreak to take the match 6-7 (7-5), 7-5, 6-4.

Earlier in the tourney, Gabriela Dabrowski lost a doubles match in the first round with Polish partner Alicja Rosolska.

Finally, away from the spotlight of major tournaments, a young Canadian named Félix Auger-Aliassime made some tennis history. The 14-year old, who qualified for the main draw of a Challenger tournament in Drummondville against professionals, had to pull out due to injury, but not before making himself known to the ATP.