The National Bank Open, formerly Rogers Cup

Cashmere Wrap: Tsitsipas earns first win over Humbert; Opelka overwhelms Dimitrov at National Bank Open

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August 11, 2021
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By Max Gao

In a terrific, three-set battle under the lights of the Aviva Centre, No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas needed seven match points to score his first win in three attempts against Ugo Humbert. The Greek star — and newly-minted World No. 3 — bounced back from losing an astounding 22-minute second-set tiebreak to see off the French lefty, 6-3, 6-7(13), 6-1 in two hours and 34 minutes. He will face the winner of the match between No. 15 seed Aslan Karatsev and Karen Khachanov for a spot in the last eight.

“It’s all about the fighting spirit,” Tsitsipas told Sportsnet’s Arash Madani in his post-match interview. “I’m someone who doesn’t like to give up … It wasn’t easy out there today. I had to do a lot. I put a lot of effort into stepping it up and to be my best today.”

Less than two weeks after falling to Humbert in the third round of the Tokyo Olympics, Tsitsipas was looking to flip the script this time around, racing out of the blocks with some strong serving to keep the Frenchman under pressure. The Greek’s persistence was eventually rewarded in a mammoth eighth game, where he converted his fifth break point before serving the first set out at love.

Photo : Peter Power/Tennis Canada

Tsitsipas would carry this momentum into the second set, earning a break midway through the set that initially appeared to be decisive. But with the finish line in sight, the 2018 finalist faltered when serving for the match, and Humbert gladly broke back to level the set at 5-all. With little to separate the two players, the second set would have to be decided in a titanic tiebreak, wherein both players struggled to take their chances. In the end, it was Humbert who, on the strength of some clutch winners, saved five match points and converted his fourth set point to draw level at one-set-all.

Following an extended bathroom break where both players left to change their clothes, Tsitsipas was able to jump out to an early lead in the decider and never really looked back, taking advantage of a letdown from his French counterpart to close out the match with minimal fuss.

Less than 24 hours after defeating Nick Kyrgios on Stadium Court, big-serving American Reilly Opelka picked up right where he left off, playing some inspired tennis to knock out No. 14 seed and former semi-finalist Grigor Dimitrov, 6-3, 6-4, in an hour and 14 minutes. He will now face the winner of the match between South Africa’s Lloyd Harris and Spain’s Feliciano Lopez, who has replaced compatriot Rafael Nadal in the draw.

Photo : Tyler Anderson/Tennis Canada

From the outset, Opelka looked like a man on a mission. With a combination of clinical serving and dogged defense, the American earned an early break with a blistering backhand winner and never really looked back in his own service games en route to claiming the opening set. The second set was a much tighter affair, but Opelka was able to take advantage of a short lapse in concentration from Dimitrov to earn a decisive break in the ninth game, breaking at the third time of asking. As the clock approached midnight in Toronto, the American saved his one and only break point of the match before booking a place in the third round.

Meanwhile, over on the Rogers 5G Grandstand Court, No. 6 seed Casper Ruud, fresh off winning a hat trick of clay-court titles in Europe, made a winning return to the North American hardcourts, extending his win streak to 12 in a row with an impressive 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory over former U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic. Only one break separated the two men in each set, but Ruud was particularly impressive off the ground in his own service games, as he won 87% (40/46) of the points in the two-hour, three-minute clash.

The 22-year-old Norweigian now awaits the winner of the match between Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic and No. 9 seed and home favorite Félix Auger-Aliassime.

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