Medvedev Marches To National Bank Open Final

Daniil Medvedev

TORONTO/WASHINGTON, August 15, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 2 Daniil Medvedev, who two years ago was a finalist in the National Bank Open, was two points from a straight-set defeat against No. 7 seed Hubert Hurkacz of Poland Friday night.

However, the top seed from Russia maintained his composure just enough – got a lifeline handed to him – and behind 23 aces and 38 winners pulled out a 2-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5) victory that lifted him into Saturday evening’s second semifinal match against big-serving John Isner of the United States.

“He had his chances and he was probably the better player for at least two sets for sure, but that’s tennis,” Medvedev quipped during an on-court interview after defeating Hurkacz. It was the World No. 13 Hurkacz who took out Medvedev in the fourth round of Wimbledon last month.

Medvedev used the huge boost of confidence from his quarterfinal victory and parlayed it into a 6-2, 6-2, 54-minute victory over the 30th-ranked Isner. The win advanced Medvedev into his fifth career ATP Masters 1000 final and fourth ATP Tour final of the season. He’s already won titles at Marseille and Marbella. On Sunday, Medvedev will face another “servebot” in American Reilly Opelka in the Toronto title match.

While Isner was broken just three times in his first four matches before facing Medvedev in the semifinal round, Medvedev did what others were unable to do – he broke Isner’s serve four times in eight service games, including twice in each set. The Russian dominated his opponent on both serve and return – finishing with 11 aces and 20 winners to just seven unforced errors. Isner countered with just four aces along with 13 winners and 20 unforced errors. Medvedev, who saved the only break point he faced, outpointed Isner 59-32.

“When you play John it’s always tough,” Medvedev said during his on-court interview following his semifinal victory. “He’s tough to break. He definitely wasn’t serving at 230 (k/ph) like he usually does. So, I had to take my opportunities and break him as many times as possible. I’m so happy I was able to keep a good level of return of serve and happy to be in the final. …

“I’m really happy with my game at this moment. I always like moving to the US Open Series. I always feel like I’m playing better and better the more the series continues. I’m really happy that I’m still in the Toronto tournament, that’s the main thing.”

Meanwhile, in the other semifinal, the unseeded Opelka of the United States advanced to his first ATP Masters 1000 final after defeating No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece, 6-7 (2), 7-6 (4), 6-4, in two hours and 32 minutes. The World No. 32 Opelka’s first Top 5 triumph came after he whalloped 46 winners, including 17 aces, and also effectively won points at the net playing serve-and-volley.

“I played great,” Opelka said during his on-court interview. “These courts suit my game. It is no coincidence that John Isner is in the other semifinal. I think we are the two best servers in the touranment. So, for us both to be there, it says something about the conditions. It is live.

“Stefanos has definitely improved his returning. Come 5-5 in the first set, a lot of balls started to come back. He is a thinker and has a high tennis IQ. So, it was expected, but that is what separates him from the rest of the pack.”

The newly-turned 23-year-old Tsitsipas sought to reach his second final in Canada following 2018 in his seventh ATP Masters 1000 semifinal. However, the temperamental Greek, who came into the semifinal with an ATP Tour-leading 45 victories, lost his cool after losing the second set tie-break and later was issued a point penalty after he smashed his racquet, then hit a ball into the stands. It came after Opelka broke his serve to go ahead 4-3, the only time that Tsitsipas was broken during the match.

It was during that memorable 2018 run in Toronto that Tsitsipas overcame four Top 10 opponents in a breakthrough run to the final before finally losing in the title match to Rafael Nadal, who this year withdrew due to a foot injury on the eve of the tournament. This year, it’s been Opelka who is enjoying the big breakthrough in reaching Sunday’s title match.

I actually watched almost all of his matches,” Medvedev said. “I think he’s playing great tennis here all week long. Today, the match he turned around with Stefanos was quite unbelievable, a very hard effort.”

Czech mate: Pliskova topples Sabalenka, faces Giorgi in final

In Montreal, Saturday afternoon’s first semifinal between top seed Aryna Sabalenka and No. 4 seed Karolina Pliskova in the Omnium Banque Nationale at IGA Stadium had all the makings of a final. After all, in a week filled with plenty of upsets, the World No. 3 Sabalenka from Belarus and World No. 6 Pliskova of the Czech Republic were the only seeds to make it the last four.

While Sabalenka prevailed in an all-Belarusian quarterfinal with Victoria Azarenka to garner her 38th main draw victory, most in the WTA this season, Pliskova came into the semifinal having won 11 of her last 13 matches – including a comeback victory over Sabalenka in the Wimbledon semifinals last month. She had dropped only one set all week, none since her opening match against Donna Vekic.

As it happened, Pliskova gave a masterclass on Centre Court. She hit 10 aces and finished with 20 winners against only 12 unforced errors and beat Sabalenka, who committed 29 unforced errors, for the second straight time. Pliskova used a disciplined and focused approach – counter-punching along the way – to garner the victory. The Czech star’s 6-3, 6-4 victory in an hour and 21 minutes lifted her to her third WTA final this season. A former World No. 1, Pliskova will re-enter the WTA Top 5 on Monday.

Pliskova broke Sabalenka four times in eight tries, including each of the Belarusian’s final two service games, to close out the match. She outpointed Sabalenka 66-53 to advance to her third final of 2021.

“I think I did very well on the difficult points,” the 29-year-old Pliskova said, smiling during her on-court interview following the semifinal win. “I have a tendency to go negative, but I think I did actually great today.

“It was not easy today, it was super windy, especially with her game. A combination of these two things was quite difficult. It’s not like I was too perfect with my game, but I did exactly what I needed to do to win this match today.”

Meanwhile, the second semifinal between a pair of unseeded and unheralded foes, No. 71 Camila Giorgi of Italy and No. 30 Jessica Pegula of the United States, offered plenty of intrigue. Pegula came in leading the head-to-head against Giorgi 3-1, including a title victory at the 2019 Citi Open final in Washington, D.C.

However, more recently, Giorgi had won 14 of her last 18 matches, including upsets of 10 – count ’em 10 – Top 50 opponents. En route to the semifinal, Giorgi had beaten three seeded Top 25 players – No. 9 seed Elise Mertens, No. 7 seed Petra Kvitova and No. 15 seed Coco Gauff, while Pegula, who had been extended to three sets in every round this week in Montreal, found a way to beat Anett Kontaveit, No. 10 seed Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, Danielle Collins and No. 13 seed Ons Jabeur. In three of the four matches, she lost the first set.

Both players came in bidding to reach their first WTA 1000 final. This time, it was Pegula who ran out of good fortune in the decider – and it was Giorgi who prevailed in the end, 6-3, 3-6, 6-1, in two hours and 10 minutes. She stockpiled 27 winners to overcome her 37 unforced errors, while Pegula hit 14 winners and committed 38 unforced errors.

Of interest, Pliskova and Pegula had already played each other four times this season and the American won each of them. Sooner or later, she’s going to have to master Pegula. Who do you think Pliskova was rooting for? Probably not Pegula. Well, Pliskova got her wish, as she owns a 5-3 advantage in the career head-to-head against Giorgi. However, the 29-year-old Italian won their most recent match-up, 6-4, 6-2, in the third round of the recent Tokyo Olympics. She will be seeking her third career WTA singles title and first on an outdoor hard court.

Mektic and Pavic: One win away from title No. 10 in 2021

Olympic gold medalists Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic of Croatia, top seeds this week in Toronto, saved four set points in a second-set tie break and defeated Kevin Krawietz of Germany and Horia Tecau of Romania, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (12), in one hour and 49 minutes for their 56th victory of the season.

In Sunday’s final, the World No. 1 Croatian pair will play No. 3 seeds Rajeev Ram of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain as they go for title No. 10 this season. The American/British duo defeated Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen, both of Belgium, 6-3, 7-5.

In the women’s doubles final in Montreal, it will be No. 6 seeds Darija Jurak of Croatia and Andreja Klepac of Slovenia against No. 5 seeds Gabriella Dabrowski of Canada and Luisa Stefani of Brazil.

Jurak and Klepac defeated Magda Linette of Poland and Bernarda Pera of the United States, 7-5, 6-4, while Dabrowski and Stefani bested Veronika Kudermetova of Russia and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan, 6-2, 6-3.

Saturday’s National Bank Open – Toronto men’s results

Saturday’s National Bank Open – Montreal women’s results

Sunday’s National Bank Open – Toronto order of play

Sunday’s National Bank Open – Montreal order of play

By the numbers

• Both John Isner and Reilly Opelka arrived at their respective semifinal matches in the National Bank Open each having hit 73 aces during their four matches.

Aryna Sabalenka (270) and Karolina Pliskova (267) rank first and second in the WTA in service aces.

Camila Giorgi is the lowest-ranked Omnium Banque Nationale finalist Spain English then-World No. 80 Serena Williams won the title in 2011.

“Quotable …”

“We’re not best friends with him but I think he is one of the kindest guys on tour – I am definitely not, but he is. He hugs with everybody.”

Daniil Medvedev telling it like it is during his post-match interview after beating Hubert Hurkacz in the quarterfinals of the National Bank Open in Toronto Friday evening.