WASHINGTON — In the latest sign of a surge for Canadian tennis, Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil will meet for the Citi Open title Sunday, marking the first tour final between two men from the country.
"The vibe that I get is that tennis is really growing right now in Canada," Pospisil said. "I feel like people are getting really excited about it, especially with the results of Canadian players this year."
The 13th-seeded Pospisil edged sixth-seeded Richard Gasquet of France 6-7 (5), 6-3, 7-5 Saturday night at the hard-court tuneup for the U.S. Open.
On a muggy evening, Pospisil fell behind 3-0 in the third set, before pulling even at 3-all. Then he was two points from losing while trailing 5-4. But Pospisil came back to hold serve there, then broke in the next game when Gasquet's signature backhand broke down and produced three errors.
Pospisil dropped his racket on the court behind the baseline and raised his arms after ending the match by serving it out at love, including a pair of aces at 124 mph (200 kph) and 128 mph (206 kph). He reached his first career final — and won for the second time Saturday.
About 7 1/2 hours earlier, Pospisil finished off a rain-interrupted 6-7 (4), 6-3, 6-4 quarterfinal victory against 10th-seeded Santiago Giraldo of Colombia. That match was suspended Friday night, two points into the third set.
"Generally, I do a good job (of) fighting in matches and not letting go of any match," Pospisil said. "It was a little bit tougher today, because I was feeling pretty heavy legs in the third set (against Gasquet), and I wasn't feeling physically, like, sharp."
The second-seeded Raonic advanced by beating Donald Young of the United States 6-4, 7-5.
The ATP said it'll be the first time in the Open era, which began in 1968, that two Canadian men will face each other in a tournament final.
In the women's final, two-time major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova of Russia will face Kurumi Nara of Japan. Kuznetsova beat Ekaterina Makarova 6-3, 6-2, while Nara came back after dropping the first eight games to defeat Marina Erakovic 0-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Raonic, 23, was born in Montenegro, moved to Canada at age 3, and now lives in Monte Carlo. Pospisil, 24, was born in British Columbia and now lives in the Bahamas.
At Wimbledon last month, Raonic was a semifinalist in singles — the first man from Canada to get that far at a major tournament — while Pospisil paired with Jack Sock of the U.S. to win the men's doubles title. Also at the All England Club, another Canadian, Eugenie Bouchard, got to the women's singles final.
Raonic and Pospisil have known each other for years.
"Very different people," said Pospisil, who smashed his racket early in the second set against Gasquet. "Maybe I'm more emotional. I guess people know what I'm thinking more on the court."
The two Canadians played each other once before on tour: Raonic won their semifinal at Montreal in August 2013.
So Pospisil already knows what Young learned Saturday about Raonic's dangerous serve.
"It's like Monopoly," Young said. "He has a bunch of 'Get out of jail free' cards."
Powered by serves that reached 143 mph (231 kph) and resulted in 15 aces, Raonic reached his first final of the season. He won 34 of 37 first-serve points and never faced a break point.
"Against a player like that, with a serve like that, it's only going to be small windows," said Young, a 25-year-old from Atlanta. "And you have to be there to take advantage and be 'Johnny on the spot' — and I wasn't able to do that today."