Medvedev Is The Toronto Master

Daniil Medvedev (photo: Michael Dickens)

TORONTO/WASHINGTON, August 16, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

In an ATP Masters 1000 final that paired two gorgeous and powerful servers and ball strikers, Russia’s Daniil Medvedev gave a masterful performance that will be remembered for his display of returning prowess.

Sunday afternoon, the top-seeded Medvedev won the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over 32nd-ranked American Reilly Opelka at Aviva Centre in Toronto. The one hour and 24-minute final earned Medvedev his fourth career ATP Masters 1000 title in three years. He became the first Russian champion at the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers since Marat Safin won the 2000 title.

“I could not have dreamed of [this] at one point,” Medvedev said during a brief on-court interview that preceded the trophy presentation. “With Masters, with Novak [Djokovic] and Rafael [Nadal] playing, it seemed like an untouchable achievement. Now, I have four wins in five finals, which is a good score. I am just happy. I want to achieve more. I am really happy I achieved this in Canada.”

Consistency played a key role in Medvedev’s title run in Toronto. In the final, he finished with six aces, hit 16 winners and made just 13 unforced errors. Of his 73 total points, 39 of them came on his serve and 34 on his return. He won 88 percent (22 of 25) of his first-serve points, converted three of seven break-point chances and saved all four break points he faced against Opelka, who was held to eight aces thanks to Medvedev’s strategy of standing well behind the baseline – all the way back in Mississauga – to gain a better angle on his service returns. It’s the same successful strategy that Medvedev used a round earlier in beating another big-serving American, John Isner.

The final stat line will show that Opelka won 63 percent (36 of 57) of his first serves, hit 22 winners, committed 34 unforced errors and ended with 57 total points. To Medvedev’s credit, though, he kept making Opelka hit extra shots and that strategy worked, whether the American was playing serve-and-volley or following his forehand returns to the net. Time and again, the 25-year-old Russian stymied Opelka into making hitting errors.

A key turning point came when Medvedev saved three break points to hold serve for 2-all in the second set, then immediately broke Opelka and consolidated the break for a 4-2 advantage. Medvedev never looked back.

A smiling and happy Medvedev gave props to Opelka – the first American to play in the Canadian final in 10 years – in defeat. “Even today, he [Opelka] showed up, he’ll played some really good points,” he said. “He was fighting until the end, he saved break points in crucial moments. Playing your first [Masters 1000] final is not easy. I played my first in Canada and won only three games.”

In what will be remembered as a breakthrough week for the 6-foot-11-inch, 23-year-old Opelka, after competing in his first ATP Masters 1000 final and earning his first Top 5 win against World No. 3 Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semifinals, Opelka leaves Toronto as the top-ranked U.S. male – surpassing Isner – while breaking into the Top 30 at No. 23.

Meanwhile, World No. 2 Medvedev has now collected 12 ATP Tour-level titles – 11 of them on hard courts. He improved to 4-1 in Masters 1000 title matches with his other titles coming in Cincinnati, Shanghai and Paris. His one Masters title defeat came in Montreal two years ago against Rafael Nadal.

Now, with his 12th career title in 19 finals secured, Medvedev’s 2021 season keeps getting better. He’s already won titles in Marseille (hard court) and Marbella (grass), as well as guiding Russia to the ATP Cup title in February. Plus, he was a finalist at this year’s Australian Open. Now, after mastering Toronto, it’s onward to Cincinnati for the Western & Southern Open, another ATP Masters 1000 event, with the US Open just two weeks away.

“Playing Canada and Cincinnati, the goal is to win as many matches as possible,” Medvedev said. “I was able to do it two years ago and I will try and do it again.”

Ram and Salisbury win first ATP Masters 1000 doubles title

No. 3 seeds Rajeev Ram of the United States and Joe Salisbury of Great Britain, won their first ATP Masters 1000 title as a team in capturing the final of the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers over Olympic gold medalists and top seeds Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic of Croatia, 6-3, 4-6, 10-3, in 83 minutes. After losing four straight times to Mektic and Pavic on all surfaces – in Miami, Rome, Eastbourne and Wimbledon – they finally got the best of the Croatians, who were in pursuit of their 10th doubles title of the year.

“It was great to have another battle with Mektic and Pavic,” Salisbury said, quoted by the ATP Tour website. Thank you to Rajeev [Ram] on being such an amazing partner. We have had a good year together. We have had some tough losses, and this is our first title together this year and first Masters 1000 title together, so this one is really special.”

While Toronto was the fourth tour-level title Ram and Salisbury have won together, it was their first crown of the year after reaching the finals of the Australian Open, Rome and Eastbourne.

Last month, Mektic and Pavic became the first doubles team to earn a berth at the 2021 Nitto ATP Finals. They’ve won 56 of 63 matches and are 9-3 in title finals this season.

By the numbers

• When Reilly Opelka (6-feet-11-inches, 211 cm) and Daniil Medvedev (6-feet-6-inches, 198 cm) walked on court, they represented the third-tallest final on record in the Open Era and the tallest in an ATP Masters 1000 championship. Opelka is the tallest player to reach an ATP Masters 1000 final.

• There have been five different ATP Masters 1000 title winners this season: Hubert Hurkacz (Miami), Stefanos Tsitsipas (Monte-Carlo), Alexander Zverev (Madrid), Rafael Nadal (Rome) and Daniil Medvedev (Toronto).

“Quotable …”

“Sometimes I go far back because that’s from where I can hit full power and the guy’s gonna be in trouble because he’s gonna think that I’m so far back that he needs to actually go for some good shot and he’s going to make a winner, but that’s not the case.”

Daniil Medvedev, explaining during his press conference, his strategy of playing deep behind the baseline against big servers John Isner and Reilly Opelka.