It’s the Demon’s time to shine. A day after stunning No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev in straight sets, Alex de Minaur weathered the hot and windy conditions to secure a berth in the title match at the 2023 National Bank Open presented by Rogers with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina.
“I think [with] a match like today, you can’t really take too much out of it because of the conditions,” de Minaur said during his post-match press conference. “The conditions were very, very tough for both of us, so it didn’t allow for ideal tennis, perfect tennis, and I knew that from the first moment I stepped out on court that it wasn't going to be pretty. So I just told myself that no matter what, I was going to compete every point, stay positive, and not get frustrated by how the match may go, and I’m just going to give myself the best chance of staying tough mentally. And I think that’s probably what got me the win today.”
Having won only one of his four previous meetings with Davidovich Fokina on the professional circuit, the unseeded Australian, who also upset No. 8 seed Taylor Fritz and No. 11 seed Cameron Norrie earlier this week, got off to a quick start, rushing the net to break the Spaniard in his opening service game.
Davidovich Fokina, who recorded victories over No. 3 seed Casper Ruud and No. 13 seed Alexander Zverev, seemed to be feeling the effects of playing four matches in as many days and struggled to hit through de Minaur, who remained rock solid from the back of the court. After Davidovich Fokina hit a forehand approach long to get broken again for 5-1, de Minaur wrapped up the 31-minute opener in the ensuing game with his second ace of the match.
Both players struggled to find their rhythm in their service games in the topsy-turvy second set. After de Minaur broke and held to take an early 2-0 lead, the pair exchanged seven breaks of serve in a row. What little headway Davidovich Fokina was able to make in the set was quickly erased in the following game by de Minaur, who remained relentless in his return games to wrap up the win in an hour and 17 minutes and reach his fourth ATP Tour final of the season. De Minaur is now the first Australian to reach the final of the National Bank Open since Patrick Rafter in 2001.
“It feels great; it feels like all the hard work, all the hours on the court, off the court, they’re paying off,” de Minaur said about reaching his first ATP Masters 1000 final. “It’s good to see those results, because a lot of times you put in all this effort and hard work and the results just don’t come, right? So it’s always a huge boost of confidence when you're able to go on these deep runs. But I get to play a final tomorrow, and the job is not done.”
On championship Sunday at Sobeys Stadium, de Minaur will face off against the winner of the match between No. 12 seed Tommy Paul and No. 7 seed Tommy Paul.
Paul, who ended the 14-match winning streak of World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz on Friday evening, has never defeated de Minaur in five previous meetings; they’ve already met twice this year (in Acapulco and Los Cabos) with the Australian coming out on top in three sets. On the flip side, de Minaur would be looking for his first win in five attempts against Sinner. All three remaining players are looking for their first ATP Masters 1000 title.
“Jannik is one of the better ball strikers on tour. His ball speed is up there with definitely the highs from both sides, and he can definitely pound the ball,” de Minaur said. “Tommy has been playing great this week, beating the No. 1 in the world. So he’s definitely bringing up his level. And he’s very crafty as well. He’s got a beautiful all-around game. So, look, it’s a final tomorrow. I’m going to bring the same mindset. I’m going to go out there and enjoy it and compete until the end.”