The National Bank Open, formerly Rogers Cup

Cashmere Wrap: Tiafoe survives scare; Schnur, Polansky advance in qualifying at National Bank Open

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August 8, 2021
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By Max Gao

A humid day of on-again, off-again rain wasn’t enough to delay the start of the 140th edition of the National Bank Open presented by Rogers on Saturday, as 24 players began their quest for a coveted spot in the main draw behind closed doors at the Sobeys Stadium.

Top Seeds Tiafoe, Paul, Nishioka Survive Early Tests

No. 1 seed Frances Tiafoe survived an early scare from Ohio State alum J.J. Wolf, overcoming a shutout second set to defeat his compatriot, 6-2, 0-6, 6-4, in an hour and 38 minutes.

In the second match on Court 1, Tiafoe broke twice and didn’t face a single break point en route to clinching a dominant opening set. But after the top seed failed to convert his two break point chances in the first game of the second set, Wolf seemed to grow in confidence, restoring parity at one-set-all as the clock approached the one-hour mark. Tiafoe would use the set break to regroup, clinching a break in the first game of the final frame that ultimately proved decisive. On Sunday, he will face No. 7 seed Emil Ruusuvuori, who needed 75 minutes to defeat Toronto native Steven Diez, in the first match on Court 1 for a place in this week’s main draw.

JJ Wolf
Photo : Peter Power/Tennis Canada

No. 2 seed Tommy Paul survived an early test from Canadian wild card Liam Draxl, edging out the Newmarket native, 7-6(0), 6-4. Draxl, a standout from the University of Kentucky, jumped out to an early break in both sets, but Paul, who made his top-50 debut earlier this year, was able to use his experience to recover both breaks and played the big points slightly better to wrap up the match in an hour and 21 minutes. The young American will now face British left-hander Liam Broady, who came from a set down and saved a match point to upset No. 8 seed Alexei Popyrin, 5-7, 7-6(7), 7-6(2).

Elsewhere on Day 1, No. 3 seed Yoshihito Nishioka recovered from set point down in the first set to defeat American Michael Mmoh, 7-6(5), 6-2, in an hour and 43 minutes. Nishioka, who successfully qualified for the event in Toronto three years ago, will be looking for a repeat on Sunday, but he will face a stern test in No. 11 seed and Spanish vetetran Feliciano Lopez, who defeated American Maxime Cressy, 7-6(4), 6-4.

Canadians Schnur, Polansky Cause a Stir on Day 1

However, not all of the seeds were able to survive the first hurdle on Saturday. Peter Polansky kicked things off on Centre Court with a dominant 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 4 seed Dominik Koepfer. Polansky — who is making his 14th appearance at his home tournament and notably lost to Novak Djokovic on this court three years ago — earned a break midway through both sets and only faced one break point in the 87-minute encounter. The Toronto native will square off next against No. 9 seed James Duckworth, who needed just 64 minutes to dispatch Ukraine’s Illya Marchenko, 6-1, 6-3.

Over on the Grandstand, Pickering native Brayden Schnur earned his first win at the National Bank Open since 2015 by upsetting No. 6 seed Marcus Giron, 6-2, 6-3, in exactly one hour. Schnur broke serve first times and looked dominant throughout in his own service games, winning 23/26 (88%) of his first-serve points en route to setting up a clash with Colombia’s Daniel Elahi Galán on Sunday. Galán knocked out No. 12 seed Benjamin Bonzi, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2.

Joining all of the winners in the final round of qualifying are No. 10 seed Ricardas Berankis and Colombia’s Emilio Gómez, who will face off for a spot in the 56-player main draw. Berankis defeated Slovakia’s Norbert Gombos, 7-6(5), 6-4, while Gómez narrowly defeated Max Purcell — who replaced Lorenzo Musetti in the competition as a last-minute alternate — 7-6(2), 6-7(2), 7-6(4).