The National Bank Open, formerly Rogers Cup

407 ETR Pitstop: Nishikori, Medvedev, Khachanov battle into second round at National Bank Open

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August 10, 2021
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Photo : Peter Power/Tennis Canada

By Max Gao

No. 1 seed Daniil Medvedev staved off an inspired effort from Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik to move into the third round with a nail-biting 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory. The World No. 2, who made the final of this event in Montréal two years ago, Medvedev will now face the winner of the match between Australian qualifier James Duckworth and No. 16 seed Jannik Sinner.

In his second match in as many days on Stadium Court, Bublik applied some early pressure on the top seed, and his persistence was rewarded with a decisive break in the ninth game of the opening set. But after rain temporarily suspended play, Medvedev returned to the court with a renewed sense of purpose, dictating the exchanges from the back of the court to force a final set. The Russian earned a crucial break in the first game of the decider and dropped just three points on his own serve en route to securing the victory in two hours and two minutes.

“[The rain delay] helped a lot,” Medvedev said in his on-court interview. “I don’t know if the conditions changed with the humidity, but I was not playing well before the rain. I had my opportunities. I was missing second-serve returns, missing balls. I knew I had to play better if I was to win.”

2016 runner-up Kei Nishikori continued his fine form on the North American hardcourts, making a winning return to Toronto with a hard-fought 6-4, 6-7(5), 6-2 victory over Serbia’s Miomir Kecmanovic in two hours and seven minutes. The Japanese superstar will now face No. 7 seed Hubert Hurkacz, who is in the midst of a breakout season on the ATP Tour, for a place in the last 16.

With little to separate the two players in the early stages, it was Nishikori, a semi-finalist last week at the Citi Open in Washington, who was able to convert his one and only break point of the set en route to taking a one-set lead. After trading breaks early in the second, Kecmanovic and Nishikori would continue to dominate on their own serves. But it was the 21-year-old Serb who would play the big points better in the tiebreak, eking out the set by the slimmest of margins to draw level at one-set-all. Yet in the end, Nishikori, a former finalist at the U.S. Open and World No. 4, was able to use his experience to regroup, jumping out to an early lead in the decider and never really looking back.

Following Nishikori’s victory on Stadium Court, American John Isner fired 19 aces and needed just 64 minutes to see off Spain’s Alejandro Davidovich Fokina, 6-4, 6-1. The 36-year-old will face No. 13 seed Cristian Garin tomorrow.

Photo : Tyler Anderson/Tennis Canada

Just nine days after winning a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics, Russia’s Karen Khachanov was able to build on his strong start to the summer with a nail-biting 6-4, 5-7, 6-4 win over Great Britain’s Cameron Norrie. There was little to separate the two players in each set, but a major key to Khachanov’s victory was his ability to get on the front foot on the strength of his own serve. The Russian won 77 percent (40/52) of his first-serve points in the two-hour, 33-minute encounter and will meet No. 15 seed Aslan Karatsev in the second round.

In the next two matches of the day on the Rogers 5G Grandstand Court, American lucky loser Frances Tiafoe served 11 aces en route to a dominant 6-4, 6-3 win over Japanese qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka, while France’s Benoit Paire knocked out Washington finalist Mackenzie McDonald, 6-3, 6-4. Tiafoe will now meet No. 5 seed and hometown hero Denis Shapovalov, against whom he has a 1-4 head-to-head record, tomorrow. Paire, on the other hand, will face No. 8 seed Diego Schwartzman.

Other three-set winners on Tuesday afternoon include Georgia’s Nikoloz Basilashvili, who rallied to knock out red-hot American wild card Jenson Brooksby, 2-6, 6-0, 6-4; and Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic, who also came from behind to defeat Finnish qualifier Emil Ruusuvuori, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3. Basilashvili will now square off against No. 12 seed Alex de Minaur, while Lajovic will come face-to-face with No. 9 seed and Canadian hopeful Félix Auger-Aliassime in tomorrow’s day session.

In doubles action, No. 5 seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo edged out the young team of Hubert Hurkacz and Jannik Sinner, 7-5, 6-4, while No. 8 seeds Rohan Bopanna and Ivan Dodig defeated the all-Italian team of Fabio Fognini and Lorenzo Sonego, 6-4, 7-6(4). The all-Canadian, wild-card team of Peter Polansky and Brayden Schnur were, unfortunately, no match for the veteran team of Simone Bolelli and Maximo González, who won, 6-4, 6-1.

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