Vernon’s Vasek Pospisil made a little slice of Canadian history at the Rogers Cup Friday morning in Montreal.
Pospisil became the first Canadian tennis player since Mike Belkin in 1969 to reach the final four of the event, once called the Canadian Open, when his opponent Nikolay Davydenko retired due to illness in their quarterfinal match. Pospisil, 23, was leading 3-0 in the first set when the Russian retired.
The Saturday semifinal became an all-Canadian affair after Thornhill, Ont.’s Milos Raonic, the 11th seed, rode the spirited support of the centre court crowd for a 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-4 victory over Ernests Gulbis of Latvia Friday afternoon.
Gulbis had taken out second-seeded Andy Murray on Thursday.
Pospisil is now guaranteed $129,000 in the $3.5 million tennis tournament.
The last time two Canadians participated in the quarterfinals of their home tournament was 1989. The last time a Canadian was in the final was 1958, when Robert Bedard won the last of his three titles.
It will be the first meeting between Raonic and Pospisil in an ATP Tour tournament. Pospisil holds a 3-1 edge in their four meetings in lower level events, but Raonic took the most recent match in 2010.
“Exciting match,” Pospisil told Tennis Canada. “Two Canadians in the semifinal, one guaranteed to be in the final. It’s a historic moment for tennis in Canada.
“We obviously know each other very well. Since we were little kids. You’ve got to give the edge to Milos, for sure. I have the edge in terms of head-to-head (matchups), but things have changed in the last two years. My run here doesn’t change anything here in terms of that. But we’ll see how it goes.”
Top seed and defending champion Novak Djokovic of Serbia played No. 4 Rafael Nadal of Spain in the other semifinal Saturday.
In the past two years, the hard-serving, 22-year-old Raonic has risen to No. 13 in the world rankings, a record for a Canadian.
Pospisil has taken a slower path, but is on a roll of late. He won a Challenger series tournament last week in Vancouver, then kept it going in Montreal with wins over John Isner, Radek Stepanek, fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych and Davydenko, a former world No. 3 who is now ranked 47th.
Combining his tourney win in Vancouver with his stellar run in Montreal, Pospisil should vault into the ATP top 50. He was a career high No. 71 heading into the Rogers Cup.