The field at the National Bank Open was windled down to four singles players and four doubles teams on Friday, but the draw was also split wide open with some major upsets.
Before we get to that, let’s take a look at the Tennis Canada Mental Timeout initiative supported by Beneva that is happening at this year’s event. The Positive Court Pledge is back again this year and aims to, “acknowledge the need for a more open conversation to reduce stigma around struggles with mental health.”
Fans arriving on site this week in Toronto can sign their name to support the initiative at the kiosk directly to the left of the giant draw sheet and video screens that are adjacent to Centre Court. There’s a wall that has already accumulated hundreds of signatures from those in attendance and fans can also access the pledge online too if they won’t be here in person.
Along with the positivity postcards that fans have been writing to the players this week, there’s a strong message being sent to the players that their mental health is a priority here at the event and beyond.
The pledge isn’t just for fans to sign, however, as Canadian tennis player and current member of the Auburn University tennis team Ariana Arseneault stopped by to sign the pledge while she was in town to catch some live men’s tennis action.
Ariana leaves tomorrow to make the 16-hour drive back to campus where she will begin her final year at Auburn before she hopes to turn pro and pursue her dream of competing on the WTA Tour. We hope to see the 21-year-old from Richmond Hill competing in qualifying action next summer when the women return to town.
The pledge can be signed by everyone. Take a moment to sign the Positive Court Pledge.
At the beginning of the week, few people would have ever imagined the opening quarter-final match would feature Alejandro Davidovich Fokina vs Mackenzie McDonald. Both are capable pros, but they took out some big-time players from the draw en route to the final eight.
The Spaniard kept up his torrid pace here in Toronto this week and took the match in straights 6-4, 6-2, advancing to the second ATP Masters 1000 semifinal of his career, following Monte Carlo last year. Davidovich Fokina has only dropped one set this week and has taken out big names such as 13th-seeded Sascha Zverev and third seed Casper Ruud.
Asked after the match what confidence he has gained this year on hardcourts, Davidovich Fokina came up with the following about his mental approach to the game.
“I am more relaxed offside the court. And I think that’s the key that gives me a lot more power when I step on court. Then I’m more calm when I’m playing. And I don’t care about to lose or win. Just to enjoy and to play and to win every point.”
In the afternoon matchup, No. 2 seed Daniil Medvedev was stunned by Alex de Minaur. The Aussie is currently ranked 18th on the ATP Tour and has the most incredible foot speed on the tour. There were hardly any balls he couldn’t reach today and his consistency returning Medvedev’s powerful shots eventually drew out the errors from the 2021 Toronto champion. De Minaur’s net game also proved lethal, causing Medvedev to often hit long or into the net as the Aussie stood tall there in front of him.
The Davidovich-de Minaur semifinal on Saturday is an incredible opportunity for both of these 24-year-olds who have absolutely deserved their appearance in this stage of the tournament.
The upsets didn’t stop there however, as the night session perhaps felt the need to keep up with what happened during the day. World No. 1 Carlos Alcaraz had narrowly escaped an early exit in his roller-coaster round of 16 match on Thursday night against Hubert Hurkacz, but couldn’t do the same tonight against 12th seed Tommy Paul. The American, who defeated him a year earlier in Montreal, was on his game and wasn’t at all phased by playing against the 20-year-old crowd favourite here in Toronto.
Paul stunned those in attendance with his play in the opening set before Alcaraz evened things up by taking the second. In the third set while serving at 2-3, 30-30, Alcaraz tried one of his notorious drop-shots, but Paul was able to make it there in time. Alcaraz then lobbed the ball back but Paul’s footspeed was terrific and he was able to step back and smash the ball for a winner.
On the ensuing break point, Alcaraz put a backhand volley into the net and Paul was suddenly up a critical break that he would never give back. In the end it was another surprise result here this week at the National Bank Open as Tommy Paul advanced to the semifinals with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win.
The results are really showcasing the depth on the ATP at the moment as well as how challenging the transition between surfaces can be. The crowd gave Alcaraz a thunderous round of applause as he left the stadium and they have really come to embrace the No. 1 in his first-ever appearance here in their city. There’s plenty of reason to have the confidence to say that he’s a future National Bank Open champion in the making.
Paul will meet Jannik Sinner in the semifinals, who outlasted Gael Monfils in a match that finished after midnight.