A Great Week In Toronto For De Minaur Just Got Better

Alex de Minaur (photo: Tyler Anderson/Tennis Canada)

TORONTO/WASHINGTON, August 12 2023 (by Michael Dickens)

By all metrics, Australia’s Alex de Minaur has been enjoying a very good week of tennis at the National Bank Open in Toronto. Consider this: He has dropped only a single set while defeating three Top 20 opponents, No. 13 Cameron Norrie of Great Britain in the opening round, No. 9 Taylor Fritz in the third round, and on Friday, No. 3 Daniil Medvedev of Russia.

The 18th-ranked de Minaur reached his first ATP Masters 1000 semifinal by eliminating the World No. 3 Medvedev, 7-6 (7), 7-5, in two-hours, three-minutes, on Center Court. It was his fourth career Top 5 triumph.

“I had to play some of my best tennis today,” de Minaur said after picking up his 31st win in 47 matches this season. Earlier this season, he won the title in Acapulco and last week lost the title match in Los Cabos. “It has been a great week for me so far. I played the right way today. I think having played him at the end of last year gave me the confidence that I had a chance. I just had to play the right way and I am extremely proud of the effort and to still be alive.”

De Minaur fought back from being 2-5 down and erased three set points in the opening tiebreaker. Then, twice in the second set he rallied from falling behind a break and broke Medvedev a fourth time to wrap up his second straight win over the No. 2 seed.

“I know that every time I play Daniil it will be a chess match,” de Minaur admitted. “We are both very good at adapting and playing different styles and it brings the best out of me. I have to be aggressive and take the chances I get. I think this style of tennis is my best style of tennis.”

De Minaur won 80 percent of his first-serve points, broke Medvedev’s serve four times in eight opportunities and outpointed the Russian 89-75.

Next, de Minaur will face No. 37 Alejandro Davidovich Fokina of Spain, who advanced to his second ATP Masters 1000 semifinal after beating 59th-ranked American Mackenzie McDonald, 6-4, 6-2, in an hour and 35 minutes to begin the day on Center Court.

A day after earning his fifth Top 10 win against World No. 5 Casper Ruud of Norway, Davidovich Fokina used an aggressive and effective return game against McDonald, winning 19 of 28 opportunities (68 percent) and hitting 22 winners overall. Now, at 26-19,  he’s into his first semifinal of the season in his sixth quarterfinal attempt – and still in search of his first ATP Tour career title in his fifth year on tour.

“To beat the top players is giving me a lot of confidence,” said Davidovich Fokina in an on-court interview. His live ranking has moved up 14 spots to No. 23. “I just want to step on court and play my best and enjoy every moment and every point. To get that battle that I want. He was playing amazingly at the beginning and then made a few mistakes and I believed more in myself. It gave me a lot of power.

“The good routines and habits are [important]. All the habits are off court. Obviously, a lot of things on court, but lots off court.”

Paul takes out Alcaraz for second straight year in Canada

For the first time in his career, Tommy Paul of the United States has beaten a World No. 1. Friday evening on Center Court, the 14th-ranked American from New Jersey defeated top seed Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3, in two hours and 20 minutes. It’s the second straight year Paul has taken out Alcaraz in the Canadian Masters event and it was the first quarterfinal setback of the season for the 20-year-old Spaniard in 10 last eight appearances.

After reaching his first major semifinal at the Australian Open at the start of the year, the No. 12 seed Paul has advanced to his first Masters 1000 semifinal. He won 21 of 23 net points and flustered Alcaraz with his aggressive returning from first ball to last ball. Paul outpointed Alcaraz, 95-91.

“I played a really good match today. I really went after my shots,” Paul said during an on-court interview. “You can’t start any points on your heels against him or he’ll take advantage of that. So you really have to go after your shots early in the rally and I was feeling really good on the first-strike tennis. That was the difference today.”

The loss ended a 14 match winning streak by Alcaraz going back to the start of the grass-court season at Queen’s Club. His last loss came at Roland Garros. He is a six-time champion on the ATP Tour this season.

“It helps knowing that you can beat your opponent,” Paul said. “You never want to walk on the court and be like ‘I don’t know if I can beat this guy’. It’s the attitude you’ve got to have no matter who you are playing. I would say it helped a little bit.”

On Saturday, Paul will oppose No. 7 seed Jannik Sinner of Italy, who fought past Frenchman Gaël Monfils, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3, in two hours and 22 minutes in the last quarterfinal match Friday night, which ended after midnight. Sinner hit 20 winners to move into his fifth Masters 1000 semifinal.

Around the National Bank Open

No. 3 seeds Rajeev Ram of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain survived a match tie-break to beat Andrey Rublev of Russia and Max Purcell of Australia, 4-6, 6-3, 10-4. Both Rublev and Purcell were eliminated in singles earlier in the week. In Saturday’s semifinals, Ram and Salisbury will face No. 6 seeds Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz of Germany, who defeated Mate Pavic of Croatia and Hubert Hurkacz of Poland, 7-5, 6-3.

The other semifinal will match No. 7 seeds Marcel Granollers of Spain and Horacio Zeballos of Argentina against unseeded Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands and Marcelo Arevalo-Gonzalez of El Salvador.

By the numbers

Carlos Alcaraz entered his quarterfinal against Tommy Paul with a 14-match winning streak and was appearing in his fourth ATP Masters 1000 quarterfinal this season and 10th overall quarterfinal (9-0). This season, he has won Masters 1000 titles at Indian Wells and Madrid and reached the semifinals in Miami. Alcaraz leads the ATP Tour with most wins (49-5) and titles (6) and has a 19-3 record in ATP Masters 1000 tournaments this season.

“Quotable …”

“I always say that I try to make people enjoy watching tennis. I’m really happy to know that a lot of people get into tennis thanks to me. So, for me, it’s something crazy. I’m 20 years old. I didn’t expect to make the people fans to tennis. It’s something that I I’m looking for in every tournament, in every match, to get into more people as I can. You know, thanks to my tennis, I think it’s really attractive one.”

–  World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz of Spain, on being the face of a new generation of tennis players and in bringing in a new generation of casual tennis fans.