There are aspects of tennis that remain a mystery to Russia’s Daniil Medvedev.
He doesn’t know, for instance, exactly how he was able to anticipate where two of the sport’s biggest servers were going to place their shots at the National Bank Open in Toronto this week. Doing so, though, was key to winning the tournament title.
Medvedev, the No. 1 seed, beat qualifier Reilly Opelka 6-4, 6-3 on Sunday, turning the 6-foot-11 American’s booming blasts away with seeming ease. He absorbed similar rockets from John Isner of the U.S. in a 6-2, 6-2 win on Saturday.
“I still don’t understand many things about tennis,” Medvedev told reporters after clinching the championship.
“The semi-final and the final, I don’t know what happened, but except for a few moments, I could kind of read and feel where [Opelka and Isner] were serving and just get a racquet on the ball and get it in court.”
Medvedev, 25, saved 4-of-4 break points and won 73 per cent of his total service points in the 1-hour, 25-minute match on Sunday.
Opelka, playing in his first-ever ATP Masters 1000 final, won just 63 per cent of his first service points with eight aces and three double faults.
Conditions on the court were windy, Opelka said, and that made it difficult for the 23-year-old to be consistently powerful.
“But even when I hit some big shots, he countered well and it was very tough to disrupt him at all,” he said. “All expected but he really executed well.”
Medvedev, the world No. 2, played much of the match from well below the baseline in order to respond to Opelka’s massive serve.
The Russian faced a triple break point early in the first set but saved all three, coming back from 0-40 to hold serve at 2-2.
Opelka was broken in the next game when Medvedev sent a giant rocket screeching down the line.
Opelka, ranked 32nd in the world, faced another break in the first game of the second set after Medvedev put another forehand shot straight down the line, but the American held on for the save.
A double fault gave Medvedev the break on Opelka’s next serve and the Russian went up 2-1.
Midway through the second set, it was Medvedev who faced a break. Opelka seemed for a moment poised to finally have a chance until he sent a return just wide, and Medvedev held serve to make it 4-2.
“He’s really fast, he’s really quick. It’s hard to disrupt him. It’s hard to hurt him. It’s hard to really hurt him,” Opelka said.
Medvedev sealed the victory by breaking Opelka once again, with the American sending a return into the top of the net.
Medvedev previously made it to the tournament’s final in 2019 when the event was known as the Rogers Cup but lost to Spanish tennis legend Rafael Nadal in straight sets.
This year, the Russian had to constantly adjust his game to win matches and said he was “on the edge of losing” to Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz in the quarter-final. Medvedev ultimately took a 2-6, 7-6(6), 7-6(5) victory.
“The way I played, the way I fought and the way I won a few of these matches gives me a huge boost of confidence for next tournament,” said Medvedev, who’ll compete in the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati next week before heading to New York for the U.S. Open later this month.
“But again, confidence is such a thing you can get it quite fast but you can lose it very fast also so I’m just going to try to build up on it and keep it at least for the U.S. Open series.”
At the women’s tournament in Montreal, unseeded Italian Camila Giorgi claimed the title Sunday with a 6-3, 7-5 win over No. 4-seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic.
The victory came in her first-ever appearance in a WTA 1000 final.
The 29-year-old dedicated the victory to her father, Sergio Giorgi, who’s also her coach and who stayed behind in Italy while she competed this week.
“We put all the work together this year. Imagine, 25 years of working together,” she said. “So I think it’s just amazing.”
Giorgi, currently ranked No. 71 in the world, won 71 per cent of her first service points and hit seven aces.
The win capped a stunning run at the National Bank Open where she took out No. 9-seed Elise Mertens in the first round, dispatched Petra Kvitova, the No. 7 seed, in the round of 16, and beat No. 15-seed Cori Gauff in the quarter-final.
A mammoth nine-minute game midway through the first set Sunday swung the match’s momentum.
Pliskova faced a break point after sending a shot into the net and got the save, only to see Giorgi repeatedly win the point back. The Italian eventually got the break to go up 4-3. Pliskova responded by throwing her racquet to the court.
After having her serve broken, Pliskova missed a number of returns and double faulted to set up a double-break point and potential set point. She saved the first with a massive serve, then sent a return out of play, giving Giorgi a 6-3 win.
It was the first set Pliskova had lost since the tournament’s second round when she went down 6-4 to Croatia’s Donna Vekic en route to a three-set victory.
Giorgi was the one showing her frustration in the second set, though, tossing her racquet into the net after sending a shot wide.
She forced Pliskova into a break point on the next point, winning it and going up 3-1 when the Czech player missed a return. Giorgi was broken right back in the next game after back-to-back double faults.
A missed Pliskova forehand gave Giorgi a chance for the match point, but Pliskova got the save when Giorgi sent a return into the net. Giorgi didn’t miss her second opportunity and broke her opponent to take the set 7-5.
“She just played a little bit better, maybe more aggressive and just returning better, serving better, just like small moments,” said Pliskova, the world No. 6. “But I think she deserved that.
“But overall, I’m just happy with my week. I think it was positive to have those kind of matches here.”
Tears welled in Giorgi’s eyes as she saluted the crowd with a raised racquet.
The Italian said she’s struggled with continuity throughout her career owing to a series of injuries.
“I think this year I was more able to play and being physically well. This I was sure that one day could come,” she said.
Canadian Gabriela Dabrowski and partner Luisa Stefani of Brazil took the women’s doubles title with a 6-2, 6-3 victory over Croatia’s Darija Jurak and Andreja Klepac of Slovenia.
“I’m really proud of our performance this week. It’s not easy always to come here. There are different pressures involved,” Dabrowski said. “So I’m really happy that we were able to play better even than we did last week. And we’ll just build going forward.”
The tournament was a special one for Dabrowski, who hails from Ottawa and had her parents in the stands. It was the first time she’d seen them in person since November, 2019.
“It was lovely to have them there and nice to share a win with them,” she said with a smile.