Plenty Of Spirit And Emotion By Nadal As He Endures Rain Delays And Evans At Rogers Cup

MONTREAL, August 8, 2019 (by Michael Dickens)

Top seed Rafael Nadal saved two set points during a first-set tie-break against 53rd-ranked qualifier Daniel Evans, then returned after a two-hour rain delay to beat the Briton, 7-6 (6), 6-4, in a tightly-contested second-round match at the Rogers Cup in Montreal Wednesday afternoon. It was Nadal’s 378th Masters 1000 victory, which tied Roger Federer for first place all-time.

The World No. 2 Nadal, who was playing in his first tournament since last month’s Wimbledon Championships and just his second since he won his 12th French Open, entered his match with Evans going after a record-extending 35th ATP Masters 1000 crown this week. In defending 1,000 ATP Rankings points as the 2018 champion, Nadal must reach the final to keep Federer from overtaking him as World No. 2 next Monday.

Although Nadal came out slow in his first hard-court match of the summer and missed several forehands as he was broken to start the match – and Evans later held to love to build up a 3-1 lead – the Spaniard came back. By the second set, following the second rain delay of the match, he began to exert control and coasted to his 38th victory of the year.

“Always is tough, first match on hard court after such a long time,” Nadal said after his win against Evans, quoted by the ATP Tour website. “After Wimbledon, the mind always goes down a little bit because I have been playing a long clay-court season, then grass, so you didn’t relax. Then when you finish Wimbledon, it’s like your body loses a little bit of that tension, so it needs little bit of time to recover.”

Next, Nadal will face Brasil Open winner Guido Pella, ranked 24th, who held off Radu Albot, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (2).

“Today was a good victory that allowed me to be back on court again tomorrow. Tomorrow (I play) against a player who is playing great. He’s having the best year of his career,” Nadal said about Pella. “He’s super dangerous, winning great matches. I need to be ready for tomorrow.”

Meanwhile, second seed Dominic Thiem, who hadn’t played a hard-court match since March and had never won in Canada (going 0-5 at the Rogers Cup) defeated Canadian favorite Denis Shapovalov, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3. Thiem has won five straight matches going back to his title win at the Generali Open in Kitzbühel last weekend.

“Every win is special in these tournaments because it’s only against great opponents,” Thiem said. “Against Denis, it was special because he’s a local hero. All the crowd was supporting him, so it was tough.”

Next for Thiem is a third-round match against 14th seed Marin Cilic that begins Thursday’s play on the IGA Stadium Court at noon. Cilic advanced with a 6-3, 6-4 win over lucky loser John Millman.

The night session in IGA Stadium was cut short when the featured all-Canadian matchup between 18-year-old #NextGenATP star Felix Auger-Aliassime and No. 17 seed Milos Raonic ended in retirement. Auger-Aliassime won after one hour and 32 minutes when the Canadian No. 1 was unable to continue due to lower back troubles, which earlier required on-court treatment. The two split sets by identical 6-3 scores with Auger-Aliassime winning the opening set and Raonic the second. Next, Auger-Aliassime will play sixth seed Karen Khachanov, who beat three-time Grand Slam champion Stan Wawrinka, 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-2.

Around the Rogers Cup

• World No. 5 and fourth seed Stefanos Tsitsipas, who reached last year’s Rogers Cup final, lost to alternate Hubert Hurkacz, 6-4, 3-6, 6-3, winning 80 percent (43 of 54) of his first-serve points. Tsitsipas was for 1 for 10 in break-point opportunities. Hurkacz improved to 4-4 against Top 10 opponents this year and his win over Tsitsipas represented his third Top 10 win at a hard-court ATP Masters 1000 event. Next, Hurkacz faces No. 16 seed Gaël Monfils, who advanced over qualifier Ilya Ivashka, 6-3, 7-6 (6).

• Three days after reaching the final at Washington, eighth seed Daniil Medvedev remained strong on North American hard courts after he routed Kyle Edmund, 6-3, 6-0. He saved all three break points he faced and converted five of five breaks against Edmund. Next, he will play Cristian Garin, who upset No. 12 seed John Isner, 6-3, 6-4.

• Tenth seed Roberto Bautista Agut defeated Los Cabos champion Diego Schwartzman, 6-2, 7-5, winning more points on his returns than on his serve (45 to 37). Next, he will face Richard Gasquet, who took out fifth seed Kei Nishikori 6-7 (6), 6-2, 7-6 (4), and was backed by 11 aces and five service breaks.

Adrian Mannarino upset No. 11 seed Borna Coric, 6-2, 6-1, and will oppose No. 7 seed Fabio Fognini, who defeated qualifier Tommy Paul 7-6(3), 6-3.

What they’re saying

• Before retiring from his second-round match against Felix Auger-Aliassime on Wednesday night, Milos Raonic, 28, acknowledged in an interview this week with the ATP Tour website that he never tires of the outpouring of love and support Canada shows for him.

“It’s exciting. It’s one of the most exciting parts about this whole journey,” said Raonic, who was seeded 17th in this year’s Rogers Cup tournament and was a finalist in 2013. “Obviously being here, it’s definitely magnified in that perspective. But I think there’s a lot of Canadians and a lot of support throughout other parts of the world. That has changed significantly from 2011, when I broke through, to how it is now, how many Canadians come out all over the world to watch and support tennis.

“I think once tennis is done for me, that’s probably the thing I’ll miss the most.”

• Third seed and 2017 Rogers Cup champion Alexander Zverev after beating Cameron Norrie on Tuesday night: “It was fun going out on this court again. I hope I play many more matches this week here. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m happy with the start.”