Roger Federer walked out of the tunnel for his opening match at the Rogers Cup, and the sight of Canadian flags reminded him of what he was dealing with against hometown boy Peter Polansky.
Red-and-white "Go Canada Go" signs filled the crowd at Rexall Centre on a day four Canadian men's players took the court. By the end of the night, they all left the tournament.
Vasek Pospisil lost to Richard Gasquet, Frank Dancevic fell to Donald Young, Brayden Schnur was defeated by Andreas Seppi, and Polansky was blown out by Federer. With Eugenie Bouchard losing to American qualifier Shelby Rogers in Montreal, it was a dark day for Canadian tennis that left Milos Raonic as the country's only hope.
On the men's side in Toronto, Pospisil's loss was the most surprising. Only two days after losing to Raonic in the Citi Open final, the Vancouver native was hampered by a right leg injury and fell 7-5, 7-5 to Gasquet in a rematch from last week.
"I think I'm just a little bit tired mentally, maybe," Pospisil said. "Just been on the road a lot of weeks. You need to be a 100 per cent at this level if you're playing against Richard. I wasn't feeling 100 per cent today."
Adding injury to insult on a rough day for Canadian tennis, Pospisil was set to have an MRI on an abductor injury, which seized up at 5-all in the first set. It also forced him to withdraw from doubles action, where he was set to team up with regular partner Jack Sock of the United States.
Pospisil said he had been bothered by the "strange feeling" in his leg off and on for a few weeks but didn't think it would be a long-term problem that would keep him out of last next's event in Cincinnati or the U.S. Open.
As a home-country fan favourite, the crowd was understandably behind Pospisil as he gutted through the injury.
"He has an extra motivation because it's being home," Gasquet said. "It's the same when I'm playing in France. But yeah he had big expectations on him, especially here in Toronto."
Pospisil out of top 40
The loss drops Pospisil out of the top 40 of the ATP rankings. He had been 27th, just short of his career-best ranking of 25th.
"He has no weaknesses," Gasquet said of Pospisil. "He has a very big forehand, very big serve, so it's always tough for me to play against these kind of players. ... I know it's a difficult opponent for me, but I played a good match."
Polansky getting out-classed by Federer was the least shocking result of the day. But after beating 2013 Wimbledon finalist Jerzy Janowicz on Monday night, Polansky was happy to get an opportunity to face the 17-time Grand Slam champion.
"Even though I lost 2 and 0, still really enjoyable, had a lot of good points," Polansky said. "Obviously that was my first time playing someone of that level. But, yeah, I thought it was a good match overall."
Federer said he's normally not heartless when facing an overmatched opponent but knew he needed to block that out.
"You never know when it can shift," said Federer, who needed all of 53 minutes to polish off Polansky. "You feel a little bit and then you end up losing the match."
Raonic is the last Canadian standing in singles play at the Rogers Cup, after the four men's losses in Toronto and defeats by Bouchard, Aleksandra Wozniak and Francoise Abanda on the women's side in Montreal.
Raonic plays his first Rogers Cup match Wednesday night against Sock, who beat Austrian Jurgen Melzer 6-1, 6-3. Raonic beat Sock, a Nebraska native, in straight sets at Wimbledon and then again last week at the Citi Open in Washington.
"I'm definitely excited for tomorrow," Sock said of facing Raonic. "The juices will be flowing. He got me in my home country last week, so I'm going to try to maybe get some revenge."
Plenty of juices were flowing for Canadians in afternoon play in Toronto, but that wasn't enough.
On the grandstand, the wheels fell off in the second set for Dancevic in a 5-7, 6-0, 6-3 defeat to American Donald Young. Dancevic said Young did a good job of adapting to his game.
"He just started reading my serve in the second and third set," Dancevic said. "I couldn't get any more free points on my serve, my serve percentage dropped down a little bit and he just started playing better and better as the match went on. ... I felt like it was difficult to find answers for him."
Similarly, Schnur had no answers for Seppi, losing 6-3, 6-3 in his ATP World Tour debut.
"He was just a little bit better at everything, really, than me," the 19-year-old Pickering, Ont., native said. "He kept the balls deeper at the end of the court, pushed me back, made a lot more balls that I'm not used to seeing come back, and didn't let me attack so often, that's for sure, took away my weapons."
Schnur and Seppi waited out a rain delay of more than two hours before beginning their match on the grandstand court at Rexall Centre. Schnur said that didn't help his fatigue, but he acknowledged it being part of his learning process.
"Nerves are always in my system," Schnur said. "It slowly tires you out going in and out, in and out, warming up, having to cool down. But it's something that I'm learning to get used to."
Schnur got used to being the fan favourite during his qualifying matches over the weekend. Fans encouraged him with shouts of, "Come on, Brayden," against Seppi, but the home-country advantage wasn't enough against the Italian veteran.
"Obviously at important moments, he missed a few important shots," said Seppi, who advances to face Ivan Dodig, who upset 10th-seeded John Isner. "I knew (Schnur) could serve pretty well, and I think he didn't have so good percentage on the first serve, otherwise it would be for sure tougher. I think he can for sure play pretty well, especially on the hard courts. It was his first match, so I think he handled it really well."
Schnur plans to play a futures event in Calgary next week before returning to school at the University of North Carolina. He considered these few days in Toronto a benefit for his career.
"It's good to see what I can improve on," Schnur said. "I gained a lot of confidence in my game. I think I played a lot better, even though I lost."
In other play, fast-rising star Nick Kyrgios beat Santiago Giraldo, 7-6 (3), 7-5 to set up a match with No. 8 seed Andy Murray, No. 11 seed Ernests Gulbis beat Joao Sousa 6-3, 6-4, No. 16 seed Fabio Fognini beat Mikhail Youzhny 6-4, 6-3, No. 17 seed Tommy Robredo beat Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-3, 7-6 (3), Ivo Karlovic beat Bernard Tomic 3-6, 7-6 (5), 7-6(6), Gael Monfils beat Radek Stepanek 6-3, 7-5, Malek Jaziri beat Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-4, 7-6 (6), Gilles Simon beat Dominic Thiem 3-6, 6-4, 6-0, Yen-Hsun Lu beat Marcel Granollers 7-6 (6), 7-5 and third-seeded Stan Wawrinka defeated Benoit Paire 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (2).