Toronto Masters 2021: Medvedev makes it four with masterful win over Opelka

Russian now heads to Cincinnati, the site of his first Masters title, again as top seed

Daniil Medvedev
Daniil Medvedev (Photo: Tyler Anderson for Tennis Canada)

World No2 Daniil Medvedev won his fourth Masters title and his third title of 2021 with victory over Reilly Opelka in Toronto last night, 6-4, 6-3, two years after reaching his first ever Masters final at the same tournament.

That year, the Russian went on a tear through the latter half of the season, backing up final finishes in Washington and Montreal with victories at the Cincinnati and Shanghai Masters sandwiched around his first Major final at the US Open—plus the St Petersburg title for good measure.

It was a year that propelled him into the top four for the first time, and 2021 has seen similar new milestones: a first grass title in Mallorca, a first Australian Open final, the headline act in taking Russia to the ATP Cup, and a rise to No2 in the ranks—the first man not named Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer or Andy Murray, to occupy that ranking in 16 years.

Now he has added a new Masters title to his resume, and heads to the site of his first Masters title, Cincinnati, as top seed with every prospect of winning there again—especially in the absence of defending champion and world No1 Djokovic.

The 25-year-old had already beaten one big American in Toronto in the semis in the shape of John Isner, and that after a gutsy, demanding three-set win over Hubert Hurkacz in the quarters. And he meted out similar treatment to Opelka, breaking both big-serving men down where others had failed to make inroads against the biggest serving in the game.

Indeed his own serving was far from its best in the final: Medvedev double faulted five times in the 85-minute match, and hit only half of his first serves into play. He faced four break points, though saved them all, and showed the formidable ability in his return game that supplements his aggressive attacking ability.

He said of that winning combination:

“When you play Reilly, I think still the biggest factor is how you serve and how you return. Actually, my serve was not on top point today. That’s why I had breakpoints to save. That’s why it was sometimes close calls on my serve.

“But I was very good on return. I managed to put pressure on him almost non-stop. I think he didn’t have maybe one or two easy games in the match. That’s what made the difference.”

Opelka was competing in his first Masters final, after making the semis in Rome in May. He scored his first top-five win against Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semis, and that after beating No14 seed Grigor Dimitrov and No10 seed Roberto Bautista Agut. His efforts have earned him a nine-place surge in the ranks to 23 this week.

Medvedev, though, has been putting in some hard yards this summer. After winning Mallorca, he went out of Wimbledon in the fourth round after back-to-back five-setters that each took over three hours. Then he hot-footed it to Tokyo and a quarter-final run—and he has made no secret about his disappointment with that—before another long haul to Toronto.

He said of his summer so far:

“After I lost at the Olympics, it was really, as I said, probably one of the toughest losses in my career, because I really wanted to do good there…

“I didn’t manage to, so you know it can have an impact on next tournaments, but what can I say? Now I’m more happy to win here in Canada than I’m disappointed to lose there.

“And it’s the same if I go to Cincinnati and I lose early, I’m already going to be disappointed about Cincinnati and not as happy about Canada. That’s what tennis is about, but this moment right now, I’m really happy to capture a Masters 1000 here in Toronto, especially [after] some tough matches, good semi-final, good final…

“Super happy, and want to continue this level of play to Cincinnati and New York. That’s what I managed to do two years ago. Let’s see if I’m able to do it this year.”

With three former champions missing Cincinnati—Djokovic, Nadal and Federer—it will again be the Russian’s high-ranked contemporaries who threaten in the draw. Just one man among the top 12 seeds is ranked over 25, and that is No7 seed Pablo Carreno Busta, and nine of the 16 seeds are younger than Medvedev himself.

That he finds himself in the same quarter as the man who beat him in Tokyo, Carreno Busta, the man who beat him at Wimbledon, Hurkacz, the man who beat him in Miami, Bautista Agut, and the man who beat him in Halle, Jan Lennard Struff, plus former champion Murray—back with a wild card—and the 2017 champion and the first player to miss a seeding, Dimitrov, may cause the Russian wry smile.

But then, if he loses early, it may give him the extra legs for his ultimate target, the US Open title. Time will tell, but for now, he is the leader of the young pack.

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