peter polansky

Canadian Tennis Roots Run Deeper than Raonic

It would seem that the emergence of Milos Raonic as a bona fide rising star on the ATP World Tour has inspired success from his fellow Canadian tennis compatriots at all levels of the game and this was put on full display last week.

While Raonic was trying to win his second consecutive title in Memphis, Canadians were collecting hardware all over the world. After losing  the 2011 final to Andy Roddick, Raonic once again the runner-up in Memphis, falling to Jurgen Melzer in the championship match on Sunday, one week after repeating in San Jose. This run has propelled him to a career-high ranking of no. 24.

Prior to Raonic stepping on court for the singles final, Daniel Nestor and Max Mirnyi successfully defended their Memphis doubles title thanks to a 4-6, 7-5, 10-7 win over Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo. The victory is the pair’s second title of 2012 and the fourth trophy triumph for Nestor in Memphis. The Canadian tennis legend also captures doubles title no. 77 in his illustrious career.

Meanwhile, on the ITF Pro Circuit, Steven Diez and Peter Polansky both won their first Futures titles of the year. Diez won the $10,000 Murcia Futures event in Spain, defeating Pedro Sousa of Portugal 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 in the final. For his part, Polansky was crowned champion of the $15,000 Brownsville Futures in Texas thanks to a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Great Britain’s Daniel Cox on the title match. Polansky lost 18 games in five matches.

Sixteen-year-old Erin Routliffe, whose style of play is drawing comparisons to her compatriot Rebecca Marino, left Canada at the beginning of the month for a four-week South American clay court swing ranked no. 450 on the ITF junior rankings. She returns Monday ranked inside the Top 100 following a successful four tournament run. Routliffe played four Grade 2 events, reaching the semifinals in Peru, the quarter-finals in Bolivia, the final in Chile and concluding the run with another championship match appearance on Saturday at the Argentina Cup. This means there are now four Canadian girls ranked inside the Top 100 on the ITF world junior rankings.

Not to be outdone, Montrealer Félix Auger-Aliassime became the first Canadian boy  to capture the Open Super 12 in Auray, France, one of the most prestigious U12 events on the tennis calendar.

While Raonic is getting all of the attention, the impact of his new status within the sport is being felt everywhere in the tennis world and especially in Canada. Just ask any player who represents the Maple Leaf when they walk on the court.

Polansky Gives Canadian Tennis A Big Boost

It’s safe to say that when you’re ranked outside of the top two hundred and find a way to defeat a guy ranked 15th in the world it’s likely the biggest win of your career. Such was the case Monday night with 22 year old Canadian Peter Polansky who defeated a big-time player in Jurgen Melzer.

Playing in the first match of the evening session, Polansky delighted the home town fans with a stirring display of shots worthy of a player far more experienced than he.

With both players staying on serve throughout the first set, a tiebreak was required to decide the opening frame. Unbelievably it would take Polanksy eight set points to gain the upper hand in the match and close out the set. In the process he saved one set point against him.

After the match I asked him if he was starting to sweat it after failing to capitalize on the first seven of those set points.

“Yeah, those were a little bit tought, I mean, having all those set points. But I knew even if it went to a breaker I was just going to stay with him. Even if I lost that first set, I was going to try not to let it get to me. I don’t think it was going to. I knew no matter what, he would have been in for a long match, because I was going to stay right there with him.”

With that huge boost of confidence Polansky kept the ball rolling by breaking Melzer in the opening game of the second set. His pre-tournament practice session with Roger Federer must have taught him a thing or two as he continually made shots you’d expect from a much higher ranked player.

Any nerves or jitters that Polansky was feeling were well hidden as he won four straight points leading 5-4 on serve to secure the 7-6(6), 6-4 victory.

After the match Polansky revealed that despite his struggles of late, he was inspired by some positive results in practice the past few days. During that time he revealed that he took a practice set from Tommy Robredo of Spain and split sets with Frenchman Arnaud Clement.

Next up for Polansky is 54th ranked Victor Hanescu. The Romanian toppled one Canadian hope earlier today in Milos Raonic and Polansky joked that he might text Raonic for some inside information before his second round match.

“…Milos and I are friends, so I’ll get some tips from him. And the whole Tennis Canada staff, they were watching as well. I’m sure they’ll have something to say. I mean, regardless, I’m going to go out there playing my game and doing what I can.”

For now Polansky can take a big sigh of relief at the ranking points he defended from his first round win a year ago in Montreal and hopefully also find time to enjoy the moment before his next match here in Toronto.

Players Hit Practice Courts At Rogers Cup

The pros are getting ready for the Rogers Cup in Toronto with several of the big names having already had their first practice sessions at the Rexall Center.

Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic both hit yesterday while Roger Federer appeared on Center Court today to hit with Canadian Peter Polansky.

While Nadal and Djokovic have decided to partner up for the doubles, there has been no word on whether Federer too will play in both draws this coming week. Federer last played doubles in Canada in 2008 with fellow Swiss player Stan Warinka. The two paired up again a month later to win the gold medal at the Olympics in Beijing. I wonder if the duo will unite again this year, or will Federer bring in Swiss pal and doubles specialist Yves Allegro? Maybe he will surprise us all and take his own big-time partner like an Andy Murray or Roddick?

In other news, Lletyon Hewitt has announced on his personal website that he is withdrawing from the Rogers Cup with a calf injury he sustained earlier this week in Washington. I wonder if Toronto has seen the last of the 29 year old Hewitt? He will be 31 the next time the city hosts the tournament.

Stay tuned to Tennis Grandstand for all Rogers Cup updates. We will be present at the world famous CN Tower at 4pm ET for the official draw ceremony with Rafael Nadal. You can also follow me on Twitter for timely updates as well.

AUSSIE OPEN MEN’S QUALIFYING 2010

The 2010 Australian Open officially begins on Monday but important matches have already begun in the qualifying draw.

The 128-player draw will work its way down to a fortunate group of 16 players who will advance to the main draw of the tournament.

Seeded first in the qualifying draw is Xavier Malisse of Belgium who advanced to the second round of the qualies with a 6-2, 7-6(5) win against Alex Kuznetsov of the United States. Malisse is a talented but under-achieving veteran who reached a career-high of 19 in the world in 2002, the same year he reached the semi-finals of Wimbledon. Currently ranked 92nd, Malisse does not necessarily have to win all of his qualifying matches to advance into the tournament. Should any player who is entered in the main draw withdraw from their opening match ahead of time, Malisse would become the first lucky-loser to fill-in due to his ranking.

Other names of interest in the qualifying draw include former American phenom Donald Young who won his first match 7-5, 6-0 against Marc Lopez of Spain. At only twenty years of age, the possibility of Young reaching his enormous potential still exists, although it seems his game is at a stand-still at the moment ranked 194th in the world.

Former NCAA champion Somdev Devvarman holds the 27th seed amongst qualifiers and won his first match easily 6-2, 6-1 against local Australian James Duckworth. Going to school at the University of Virginia, Devvarman won the NCAA title in back-to-back years in 2007 and 2008. He defeated current top-fifty ATP played John Isner in the 2007 final so the kid certainly has skill. Perhaps this is the year he finally breaks out on tour.

Canadian youngster Peter Polansky fell in the opening round 1-6, 2-6 to Marsel Ilhan of Turkey. The 21 year old is my home country’s best hope for a top-fifty player in the future and is currently ranked 186th in the world. It is a tough break for Polansky, as he made the main draw in Australia a year ago and even pushed Igor Andreev to a fifth set in the first round before falling. Polanksy actually qualified for three Grand Slam tournaments in 2009, losing in the first round of each in five sets.

The main draw will be announced this Friday.