Cilic Wins Canadian Opener In Toronto

Marin Cilic (photo: @NBOtoronto/Twitter)

TORONTO/WASHINGTON, August 10, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

World No. 38 Marin Cilic is a two-time quarterfinalist in Canada. What’s remarkable is that the 32-year-old Croatian’s last-eight runs have come 10 years apart – in 2008 and, again, in 2018.

In Cilic’s first match since winning an Olympic silver medal in Tokyo in doubles with Ivan Dodig, he opened play in the ATP Masters 1000 National Bank Open presented by Rogers with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 victory over No. 48 Albert Ramos-Viñolas of Spain on Stadium Court at the Aviva Centre in Toronto Monday afternoon. It was his fifth win in eight career meetings with Ramos-Viñolas.

Overcoming sunny and sweltering conditions, Cilic fired 13 aces, won 74 percent (34 of 46) of his first-serve points and outpointed his opponent 93-76. He broke Ramos-Viñolas four times and saved five of seven break points during their two-hour and 13-minute match to advance to the second round against No. 6 seed Casper Ruud of Norway.

“Today was brutal conditions, very humid, very hot,” Cilic said, quoted by Tennis Canada. “[In the] second set, I just missed a few balls — easy ones, a few forehand sitters — and just lost my serve a couple of times there because of that. [Ramos-Viñolas] is really solid from the back, gets a lot of balls back, lefty, plays always tough … But I’m happy that I managed it.”

Later, during a TV interview with Tennis Channel’s Prakash Amritraj, he added: “[The win] felt good. I was expecting a tough match with Albert. Super fast court here. … It will be interesting to see how things evolve during the week. You have to play smart. … It was a great win.”

Cilic called his recent participation of representing Croatia in the Tokyo Olympics “an amazing experience.” Reaching the Olympics together with Dodig and winning a medal, Cilic said, was “a dream come true.”

Also, Cilic revealed that he and his wife Kristina are expecting their second child next month, after the US Open. “It’s amazing. Private life has been so good for me, last year and this year. I can’t be happier,” he said.

Other first-round winners in Toronto included: No. 36 Fabio Fognini of Italy, who beat No. 46 Jan-Lennard Struff of Germany, 6-7 (2), 6-2, 6-4; No. 27 Ugo Humbert of France, who was a 6-3, 6-4 winner over Italy’s 25th-ranked Lorenzo Sonego; and 85th-ranked qualifier James Duckworth of Australia who defeated No. 40 Taylor Fritz of the United States, 7-6 (2), 6-3.

Also, No. 39 Alexander Bublik of Kazakhstan beat No. 26 Dan Evans of Great Britain, 6-4, 6-4; Citi Open quarterfinalist Lloyd Harris of South Africa, ranked 49th, defeated 247th-ranked Canadian qualifier Brayden Schnur, 6-3, 6-2; and No. 43 John Millman of Australia beat 84th-ranked Lithuanian qualifier Ricardas Berankis, 6-3, 7-6 (4).

The night session was highlighted by 56th-ranked American Tommy Paul’s 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-3 win over 61st-ranked Canadian wild card Vasek Pospisil in two hours and 21 minutes. It was followed by 80th-ranked wild card Nick Kyrgios of Australia, who lost to No. 32 Reilly Opelka of the United States 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4 in a battle of big servers. Opelka fired 22 aces and hit 18 forehand winners in advancing to the second round while Kyrgios finished with 16. Opelka lost just six points on his first serve and faced only two break points.

• In Montreal at the WTA 1000 event, World No. 220 Rebecca Marino of Canada upset No. 16 seed Madison Keys of the United States, 6-3, 6-3, to advance to the second round against No. 31 Paula Badosa of Spain. No. 11 seed Maria Sakkari of Greece and No. 13 seed Ons Jabeur of Tunisia advanced but No. 14 seed Karolina Muchova was beaten by 109th-ranked qualifier Oceane Dodin of France, 6-3, 1-6, 6-2.

Djokovic pulls out of Western & Southern Open 

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic has withdrawn from the Western & Southern Open, an ATP Masters 1000 event in Mason, Ohio, near Cincinnati, which begins next Monday. A two-time tournament champion, Djokovic won last year’s tournament, which took place in New York. The 20-time major champion made the announcement on social media Monday evening:

“Dear fans, I wanted to share with you that I am taking a bit longer to recover and recuperate after quite a taxing journey from Australia to Tokyo. Sadly, that means I won’t be ready to compete in Cincinnati this year so I’ll turn my focus and attention to US Open and spend some more time with family. See you in New York soon!”

End of an era as Halep drops out of WTA Top 10

As the the women’s National Bank Open presented by Rogers commenced Monday in Montreal, of note is this: Simona Halep‘s remarkable seven-year stint in the WTA Top 10 has ended. With the unveiling on the updated WTA rankings, the debut of Roland Garros champion Barbora Krejcikova in Top 10 debut meant that Halep had been pushed outside of the Top 10 for the first time since January 2014, which meant the end of her resilient streak of 373 consecutive weeks in the Top 10.

According to the WTA website, Halep’s streak, which began on January 27, 2014 is only the eighth-best in WTA history. Martina Navratilova (1,000 consecutive weeks), Chris Evert (746), Stefanie Graf (625), Gabriela Sabatini (508), Pam Shriver (458), Arantxa Sánchez Vicario (429) and Hana Mandlikova (421) own longer streaks than Halep.

During Media Day in Montreal, the two-time Canadian Open champion Halep said: “Now that I have time to think and I have time to see what I did, it’s huge.

I’m really proud that I was able to stay so long in the Top 10. Unfortunately, the injury got me out. I can say that because I wasn’t able to play for three months so I didn’t have the chance to give my best to stay in the Top 10. 

“But I’m not sad, I’m not upset, I’m not disappointed. I just take it as a new challenge.”

Halep accepted a wild card into the Montreal main draw, where she is seeded sixth.

Petkovic wins first WTA title in over six years

On Sunday, former World No. 9 Andrea Petkovic of Germany won her seventh career WTA singles title – and first in over six years – with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over No. 97 Mayar Sherif of Egypt to win the inaugural Winners Open in Cluj-Napoca, Romania on clay.

“I feel so happy,” the 68th-ranked Petkovic said during press after her 61-minute title match win. “It feels much longer than six years, because so many things happened in the six years. I was ready to retire, I almost did retire, I started five new jobs!

“Now being back to what I love most, tennis, and winning at it, is just the best feeling. I’m the happiest person in the world right now.”

History-making week for Sharif

Despite losing the WTA 250 Winners Open final in Cluj-Napoca, Romania on Sunday, it was a history-making week for Egypt’s Mayar Sherif. The 25-year-old became the first Egyptian woman to reach a WTA final.

After receiving her finalist trophy, Sherif said: “I’ll keep my head up, to learn from these losses and keep going forward. I’ll take it in a positive way.”

Later in press, Sherif added: “Every match I played with all my heart, all my effort, all the mental effort that I could. Happy from where I arrived with this tournament, and hopefully I’ll make everybody proud back home.”

Back-to-back title victories for Collins

American Danielle Collins won her second straight WTA singles title on Sunday. The No. 7 seed beat No. 4 seed Daria Kasatkina of Russia, 6-3, 6-7 (10), 6-1, to lift the trophy at the WTA 500 Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic in San Jose, Calif.

“It was one of my goals to win a tournament this year, and to now win two, it’s just been incredible,” Collins said during press after her title victory on a hard court surface. “It’s still kind of hard to comprehend that I’ve won two back-to-back.”

Collins, who has strung together 10 straight victories, won her first title on clay at Palermo last month and followed it on hard court in San Jose. With her run of good fortune, she’s risen to No. 28 in the current WTA rankings.

Wawrinka out of US Open, Murray in

Stan Wawrinka, who won the 2016 US Open men’s singles title, pulled out of this year’s tournament on Monday due to his ongoing recovery from left foot surgery earlier this season.

Wawrinka, 44-13 lifetime at Flushing Meadows, beat Novak Djokovic in the US Open final five years ago for his third Grand Slam crown.

Two years ago, in his most recent US Open appearance, Wawrinka reached the quarterfinals before losing to eventual finalist Daniil Medvedev.

The 31st-ranked Wawrinka from Switzerland has been idle on the ATP Tour since competing in Doha in March. As a result of Wawrinka withdrawing, 2012 champion Andy Murray, currently ranked No. 105, moves into the main draw.

Happy Birthday Rod Laver

By the numbers

• If Rafael Nadal wins his third Canadian Open title in Toronto to go with three he’s won in Montreal, he will tie Ivan Lendl for the most titles at the event in the Open Era (since 1968). During the 1980s, Lendl won six Canadian titles between Toronto and Montreal.

• Coming into this week in Canada, the longest active win streak on the ATP Tour belongs to No. 6 seed Casper Ruud. The 22-year-old Norwegian is 11-0 since the start of July and has won consecutive ATP 250 clay-court titles at Bastad, Gstaad and Kitzbuhel. Ruud is the first player to win three championships in as many weeks since Andy Murray at Bangkok, Tokyo and Shanghai in 2011.

“Quotable …”

“When you see somebody is the youngest or whatever, I don’t put much weight on that. There are a lot of players who have done much, much better than me. It’s not about who is the youngest or whatever. I just want to improve, work hard.”

Jannik Sinner, 19, on becoming the youngest ATP 500 title winner as well as the third youngest in the 52-year history of the Citi Open to win the title.

What they’re sharing on social media

Andrea Petkovic / Happy times!

Jannik Sinner / Thank you for an incredible week