Inexperienced Pospisil surprises Sela
Pospisil showed the composure and of a player far older than his 21 years to give visiting Canada an early lead in their Davis Cup by BNP Paribas World Group play-off tie against Israel at Ramat Hasharon on Friday.
Pospisil was the more consistent against Israeli No. 1 Sela in a topsy-turvy battle where each of the two had the upper hand at some stage during the almost five-hour encounter. The level of play never reached dizzying heights at any stage with both players both displaying their fair share of errors and winning points.
The youthful Pospisil, ranked at 124, 28 places lower than Sela (96) played with calm assuredness through the rough patches and rode out some moments of brilliance by Sela, who was unable to tap into the crowd support at the aptly named Canada Stadium that more often than not gives the Israelis the boost they need when faced with tough situations.
Pospisil took a 4-1 lead in the first set only to see Sela claw his way back before the two battled out a first of three tie breaks that the Canadian won 7-4 with the help of his powerful serve.
Pospisil never lost his cool demeanour
A second set also went to a tie break but this time Sela held on to level the match. While the home crowd of some 3,000 spectators thought that Sela's second-set win would signify the turning point, they were introduced to a bright young prospect in Pospisil who never lost his outwardly cool demeanour.
The Canadian rattled off the third set 6-1 and had an early lead in the fourth only for Sela to again get back into the reckoning. Once again, with the tie break, the hosts were hoping that the momentum had finally swung in Sela's favour and he broke for an early lead in the final set but Pospisil had other ideas and broke back, and then again, to put Sela at arm's length. Pospisil's powerful serve and reliable forehand ensured he stayed in the match but as he got tired and Sela managed to penetrate his backhand side, the Canadian showed that he was also very capable on both sides of the court.
He was elated with his performance, a first-ever victory for him that went the full distance. "It feels incredible, playing Davis Cup is an honour ... to play in a huge match like this against a great player and win my first fifth-set match like this ... it's just an incredible feeling right now,"
the affable Pospisil said.
Sela said he was beaten by a better player but never felt he managed to get into the match. "He played much better than me today, I think the crowd helped me a lot to stay in the match and I feel disappointed that we are down 1-0," the veteran Israeli said.
Tebbutt: An odd kind of even
When the two teams lined up before the opening match of the Davis Cup World Group Playoff between Israel and Canada on Friday, it would have been difficult to imagine the eventual outcome of the opening day.
The two No. 2s, Vasek Pospisil for Canada and Amir Weintraub, on his 25th birthday, for Israel, defeated their No. 1 opponents. Pospisil did so with a gutsy display to overcome Dudi Sela 7-6(4), 6-7(6), 6-1, 6-7(2), 6-3 while Raonic started well but faded against a fired-up Weintraub, losing by a score that pretty well told the tale - 5-7, 7-5, 6-3, 6-1.
But more about Raonic later - Pospisil's conquest of the feisty Sela was a truly character-building effort.
When he finally got to the locker room after the match, Daniel Nestor, in his inimitable fashion, saluted him with, "sick win buddy - instant ESPN Classic."
There were innumerable plot twists during the match, and an uncanny number of times when it looked like one or the other was destined to win.
In the first set, Pospisil led 4-1 only to see Sela rally to 4-4 and look like he would feed off the highly-partisan crowd - 4,500-seat Canada Stadium was a little over half full. But the Canadian eventually took the set, pulling out tie break 7-4.
In the second set, Pospisil (above) had two set points at 6-4 in the tiebreak but Sela saved them, taking four points in a row to even the match.
Pospisil slammed his racquet down at the ensuing end change, furious he had wasted a chance to lead two sets to love.
That display may have had a beneficial effect. It seemed as if a little anger calmed his nerves and re-focused him. He took a one-sided third set 6-1.
In the fourth, Pospisil led 4-2 but Sela rallied to lead 5-4, bringing the raucous crowd back into the match to rhythmic chants of "Doo-dee Sey-lah" over and over again.
The most even disposition Canadian tennis player around these days, Pospisil got really angry at that point - telling Laurendeau at the next end change, "don't talk to me." You could tell there was an interior battle he had to fight with himself and he wanted to do it alone.
When he lost the fourth-set tiebreak - falling behind 6-0 before dropping it 7-2 - his Israeli opponent was once more in the ascendency, especially when he broke serve to start the fifth set and lead 2-0. But Popisil gradually won that interior battle and managed to turn the match around with aggressive play to take the set 6-3 and the match in an incredible five hours and three minutes. It was the first five-set match of his career.
In a bit of high-falutin inspired prose, I had written in my notebook, "people go to faraway places deep inside themselves during tennis matches. Vasek Pospisil has been there and back a few times today."
About getting so riled up with himself during the match, Pospisil later explained, "I missed some opportunities, obviously in the second set I had two set points in the tiebreak. Then in the fourth set I was up a break at 4-2. Missing those opportunities - kind of tensing up a little bit and letting Dudi get back into the match - made me kind of irritated with myself. But I never gave up."