Marquee Montreal semis: Nadal vs Djokovic, Raonic vs. Pospisil
MONTREAL -- Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil set up a semifinal showdown at the Rogers Cup, overshadowing two-time defending champion Novak Djokovic and Spanish star Rafael Nadal.
Canada's top two singles players won quarterfinal matches Friday, continuing a rare run of success for homegrown players at the country's biggest tennis event.
They will face each other Saturday with a berth in the final on the line.
"I think it means a lot, not just to us, but to Canadian tennis," Raonic said. "It's an opportunity, a great, great moment. At the same time, it's another tennis match. That doesn't change."
Pospisil became the first Canadian since Mike Belkin in 1969 to reach the final four of the event, once called the Canadian Open, when Russia's Nikolay Davydenko retired due to illness. Pospisil led 3-0 in the first set when Davydenko stopped playing.
Raonic, the 11th seed, rode the spirited support of the center court crowd for a 7-6 (2), 4-6, 6-4 victory over Ernests Gulbis, the Latvian player who knocked out second-seeded Andy Murray on Thursday.
"I was expecting it to be very difficult," Raonic said. "He had a great win yesterday. He's especially dangerous when he gets matches under him and he's feeling well. He wasn't really making many errors."
In the other quarterfinals, the top-seeded Djokovic, from Serbia, beat seventh-seeded Richard Gasquet of France 6-1, 6-2; and the fourth-seeded Nadal beat Australian qualifier Marinko Matosevic 6-2, 6-4. Djokovic extended his Rogers Cup winning streak to 13 matches.
Raonic and Pospisil will face other for the first time 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," said Pospisil. "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."
The last time a Canadian was in the final was 1958, when Robert Bedard won the last of his three titles.
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.
The 23-year-old 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 with wins over John Isner, Radek Stepanek, fifth-seeded Tomas Berdych and Davydenko, a former world No. 3 who is now ranked 47th.
The run included his first win over a player ranked in the top 20 in Isner and his first over a top-10 player in Berdych.
Not bad for someone who needed a wild-card entry to get into the tournament because he wasn't ranked high enough for direct entry.
He is already assured of getting into the top 50. One benefit is that he already has an exemption into the main draw of a tournament in Cincinnati next week.
"This is a huge week for me points-wise. I'm going to make a really big jump regardless of how the match goes (Saturday). I'm excited and I'll try to use the confidence I have and keep playing well."
The 20-minute match against Davydenko was ideal for Pospisil, who didn't get a lot of sleep while getting from Vancouver to Montreal and then had to grind through some tough matches.
Heading into the quarterfinals, he had played the longest match of the week against Berdych and the third-longest against Isner.
"It came at a perfect time to have a bit of rest," Pospisil said. "Even those three games (against Davydenko) I was trying to catch my breath.
"I had sore legs and was a little tired, but I was hitting the ball well. I'll try to rest up."