Underdog Canada fell to Serbia in the semis of the Davis Cup on Sunday, despite taking a 2-1 lead into the day and needing one win out of two singles matches.
The loss sends the Serbs to face the Czech Republic in the tournament.
Vasek Pospisil, the 23-year-old from Vernon, B.C., showed impressive fight against Janko Tipsarevic, world no. 23, before ultimately losing in straight sets 7-6 (3), 6-2, 7-6 (8).
Pospisil, who was a major force in Canada’s doubles win on Saturday with partner Daniel Nestor, rallied from 1-5 down in the third set tiebreak before Tipsarevic could close it out.
The Serb acknowledged the weight of the moment after the match.
“This is [a] fantastic win for me and my country,” Tipsarevic said. “It seems I can’t have a match without drama.”
Match point came after Pospisil lunged to make a volley and went down hard after his feet locked in the clay, rather than sliding, and was later helped off the court.
“I went for a volley and rolled my ankle and heard some pops which obviously isn’t good but that was it,” said Pospisil in his post-match press conference. “My ankle’s swollen right now. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious.”
Earlier, world No. 1 Novak Djokovic put on an impressive display to take out an injured Milos Raonic, 7-6 (1), 6-2, 6-2. Playing with an ankle injury he sustained during his victory over Tipsarevic on Friday, Raonic battled but was ultimately unable to match Djokovic’s level of play.
“I didn’t feel limited. I just felt like I was dealing with discomfort,” said Raonic in the post-match presser.
“I think I made one mistake on that tiebreak to make it 5-0. So I didn’t really make too many terrible errors.
“I wish I could have not kept falling behind first. I did get [to] break him twice but it was always when I was behind.”
In addition to playing away from home, the Canadian team was the underdog in terms of individual rankings, and playing on clay – a surface that is not a particularly conducive to the games of Raonic or Pospisil.
But despite the injuries and Serbia emerging as the victor, Pospisil took positives from the semi-final, Canada’s first ever in Davis Cup play.
“We have a lot of depth in the team and a bunch of other guys that are really good,” said Pospisil. “We’ll see what we can do in the future.”
It won’t be long before Canada is back in world group action. Becoming a top eight team means they will have an automatic entry to 2014 competition, and first round opponents will be named in January.
In the meantime, defending champions the Czech Republic, led by world no. 5 Tomas Berdych, will head to Serbia for the finals in November.
Djokovic, recalling the team’s 2010 Davis Cup victory, is motivated by the performance this week in Belgrade.
“This is like the (football) World Cup for us,” Djokovic said. “Winning the Cup in 2010 gave us players so much confidence.
“I’ve won a number of Grand Slams but nothing compares to sharing the joy of victory with your teammates, who are there for you and cheer on every shot you take on the court in the Davis Cup.”