Tallahassee Chassis – Frameworks for Unqualified Day One Success
(Match report about Vasek's R2 in qualifying)
But I didn’t get to watch that one because I was witnessing by far the longest (and probably the most dramatic) match of the day: 20 year-old Canadian Vasek Pospisil vs. 24-year-old Hungarian Denes Lukacs (of course – what else would it be?).
Heck, just the first game was longer and more dramatic than most matches: eleven deuces, almost thirty minutes, two line-call controversies, and six break points saved before Pospisil held for 1-0 in the first set. Amazing. Vasek was tres exasperated, thinking he should’ve gotten out of the game a lot earlier but had been jobbed by a call. He kept saying something about “3 a.m.” which I took to be his estimate of what time the match would end. Which didn’t seem like a bad guess at the time.
Nothing Is Impospisil
The match picked up the pace slightly from there (hard not to do), but both players seemed sluggish and not altogether scintillating on the now-searing surface at 1:30pm. Lukacs, who played for four years as a Baylor Bear (which might be a key reason that Mate Zsiga is slated to play ball in Waco as well, as both are Hungarian), missed a sitter of a forehand on break point in the fifth game, and Vasek stood for long amounts of time between points, hunched over, hands on knees.
Such a slog it was, that I wrote the following sentence atop my trusty reporter’s notebook: “Whoever wins this first set, wins the match.” It seemed impossible at the time that either guy would be able to rebound from a first set loss to take a final two sets – Lukacs had already played an earlier match, beating Britain’s Matthew Short 6-3 6-3, and Pospisil already seemed worse for wear six games into his day.
This seemed to make the seventh game particularly crucial, as the Canadian made three errors off the ground from 3-all 30-0, and Denes got the first break with an inside-in forehand winner. A tired-looking, melting Pospisil barely moved for some serves in the following game, as the Hungarian easily consolidated to 5-3.
But then: with the Hungarian serving for the set at 5-4 deuce, Pospisil ripped a crosscourt backhand pass that was substantially slowed by the net cord but still landed in; Lukacs could’ve made a play on it, but he had stopped playing the point, figuring Vasek’s shot had beaten him off the racquet. By the time he realized he was still in the point, he wasn’t any longer. He followed with a forehand over the baseline and we were back all square in the first set, five games apiece.
The Canadian, bakin’, held to love for 5-6, and the Hungarian nibbled his way into a tiebreak with a point here and a point there, and – once in the TB – the man behind only Benjamin Becker on Baylor’s all-time wins list came roaring back from 1-3* down to take the next six points. First set to Lukacs, 76(3).
But the second set was when it really got interesting. That 30-minute first game from the first set? Yeah, that was merely an appetizer for all the drama to come. The second set began innocently enough, with three straight holds, during which time Lukacs good-naturedly asked the ump if he could get some salt sent to court, in an attempt to stave off cramps. I could tell Denes was looking a little stiff-legged and rickety out there, and one got the sense that Vasek might be able to find his way through his wavering foe, a set down or no.
A trainer was then called to the court, and the Hungarian began to receive treatment on the change of ends. The stated reason was a “left quad” injury. Pospisil was none too pleased by this turn of events: “You’re not allowed to call for a trainer before the opponent serves, you know? You realize you just made a mistake, right?” he inquired of the ch/ump. The chair said there was a distinction to be made between taking a medical time out for cramping or for another injury sustained during the match.
Meanwhile, the trainer asked the chair to start the clock for a MTO, his initial examination complete. After his discussion with Vasek, the chair ump wandered over to the trainer at Lukacs’ chair. “Is this a changeover or a medical time out?” he asked. “I told you to start the clock,” said the trainer. “And I did,” the ch/ump responded. “Well, I wouldn’t have told you to start it if it weren’t a medical time out.”
What a mess. The trainer assured Vasek that the time out was not for cramping.
Unsurprisingly enough, Pospisil was broken to love in the game immediately after these exchanges, and Lukacs held to 4-1* in the second. “I got here at three in the morning for this!” Vasek yelled. And at this point, I was all but planning my escape, as I was starting to overheat and I wasn’t even doing anything.
Denes really did look on his last legs at this point, however, and sure enough handed Posipil the break back with a double fault on break point serving at 4-2. The Canadian held to 15 to tie up the second set at 4-all, as Lukacs gimpily wandered around the baseline between points, looking lost.
Two holds later, the tension ever increasing, the Hungarian began to go for broke, realizing this was his last stand and if he could end points early and rip a couple of winners, he might still eke out a victory, bad quad and all. Lukacs fought his way back to deuce from 5-all 0-40, but wasn’t able to string enough points together to put together another hold. Instead, Vasek dug in and finally broke on his 6th break point chance of the game, then served out a dicey, deucey game, serving two aces from down 0-30 and taking the second set 7-5 on a netted Lukacs backhand.
From there, it was all but academic, as the Hungarian was a beaten man, spent both physically and mentally. Pospisil cruised in the final frame, winning 6-7(3) 7-5 6-1 in a mere 2 hours and 55 minutes. All of which means: I was totally wrong about what I wrote on top of my notebook.
Afterwards, when I asked him about the “3 a.m.” mentions, Vasek told me he had gotten in really late the night before, and that he “was really frustrated. I powered through, somehow. It’s tough – you don’t always get it the way you want it. I hadn’t played in the heat in a while. It wasn’t a great day for me but I pulled through, so I was lucky to do that.”
When I told him the “Fred Express” should have gotten him in a bit faster than 3am (for those not in the know, Vasek writes hilarious blog entries for Tennis Canada
in which the driving habits of his coach, Fred Niemeyer, are called into question). Vasek told me Freddie wasn’t actually there yet, but was coming in later and after that he “won’t be late” anymore. Get out of the way if you see him coming, Tallahassee drivers!
So that’s day one in the books for me. Stay tuned more more just-as-riveting tales from Day Two – coming soon to a monitor near you!