Photo : Peter Power/Tennis Canada
By Max Gao
American Reilly Opelka continued his breakout week at the Aviva Centre on Saturday afternoon, coming from a set down to upset No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, 6-7(2), 7-6(4), 6-4, and reach the final of the 2021 National Bank Open presented by Rogers. In his first ATP Masters 1000 final, Opelka will face either No. 1 seed Daniil Medvedev or his compatriot — and fellow big server — John Isner.
With little to separate both players in the first two sets, Tsitsipas and Opelka dominated their respective service games and were both looking to get the first strike in the relatively short baseline exchanges. The only break points in the opening set came in the third game when Opelka, looking to target Tsitsipas’ one-handed backhand, created two crucial chances but was unable to convert. As the set moved into a tiebreak, Tsitsipas was able to bide his time, earning an early mini-break and never really looking back en route to claiming the first set in 55 minutes.
The second set proved to be a similar affair as Opelka was unable to convert an early break point, but he was able to stave off Tsitsipas’ advances in a crucial 11th game to keep his nose in front. In the tiebreak, it was the American who was able to draw first blood, hitting a stunning inside-out forehand that forced an error from Tsitsipas to claim the first mini-break. While the Greek was able to get things back on serve, he lost both of his service points trailing 4-5 and allowed Opelka to restore parity at one-set-all.
In the decider, Tsitsipas earned his break point of the match at 3-2, but he was unable to return a clutch serve-and-volley attempt from Opelka, who seemed to grow in confidence as the set progressed. The only service break of the match came in the seventh game of the final set, where Tsitsipas, facing a break point on his own serve, mistimed a forehand and handed the decisive advantage to Opelka. From there, the big-serving American held at love twice to secure a place in the biggest final of his career — improving on a semi-final showing at the Internazionali BNL d’Italia in Rome earlier this year, where he lost to Rafael Nadal. The American hit 17 aces, 46 winners and 41 unforced errors in his two-hour, 32-minute victory.
Earlier in the day session, No. 1 seeds and reigning Wimbledon and Olympic champions Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic continued their winning ways, edging out No. 4 seeds Kevin Krawietz and Horia Tecau, 7-6(3), 7-6(12), to reach their 12th final of the season.
After playing a commanding first-set tiebreak, Mektic and Pavic, who were on a 17-match winning streak entering Saturday’s semi-final, fought off four set points in an epic second-set breaker before converting their fourth match point to book their place in Sunday’s showpiece. The all-Croatian pairing will be looking to win their fourth ATP Masters 1000 crown — and their 10th title of the season — when they face off against either No. 3 seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury or the all-Belgian team of Sander Gille and Joran Vliegen tomorrow.