Daniil Medvedev’s opponent hailed his display as “flawless” after the world number two moved closer to ousting Novak Djokovic at the top of the rankings by ending a 21-year Russian wait for glory at a tournament in Canada.
Masterful Medvedev continued his chase of Wimbledon champion Djokovic by beating American Reilly Opelka in the final of the National Bank Open in Toronto – and he admitted he was in dreamland after earning his fourth ATP Masters 1000.
The Russian star had an early scare when relative newcomer Opelka went 40-0 up against serve in the fourth game of the match, only for Medvedev to save the game via five straight first serves.
In his first Masters final, Opelka also squandered a break point in the second set on his way to a 6-4, 6-3 defeat against an opponent whose performance he hailed as perfect afterwards.
“[When] I played my first Masters final, I was happy just to be there playing against Rafa[el Nadal],” Medvedev reflected afterwards. “I always try my best but something was wrong, so I lost super easy and super fast.
“It can be the same for everybody. I know, for me, experience is the key… This week [Opelka] beat some really strong guys to be in the final, so probably next time in the final [we] can expect a more dangerous Reilly than today.
”I could not have dreamt of [a fourth Masters title] at one point. With Masters, with Novak and Rafael 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.”
Medvedev became the first Russian to win the tournament since two-time Grand Slam champion and former world number one Marat Safin did so in 2000.
”He was flawless,” said Opelka. “I had one chance to break early. I don’t think that would have changed much because he was in so many of my service games.
Current ATP top101) Djokovic – out until US Open2) Medvedev 3) Tsitsipas4) Nadal – foot injury5) Zverev – fatigue6) Thiem – long time out7) Rublev8) Berrettini – recovering9) Federer – out until ?10 Shapovalov
— enrico maria riva (@enricomariariva) August 10, 2021
“When I hit some big shots, he countered well and it was very tough to disrupt him at all.
“I have learned a lot about myself. I learned that the difference between some matches is so small, you’ve just really got to be optimistic.
“I was playing Lloyd Harris a couple days ago on the back court, and the guy was red hot. Returning unbelievably, playing well, not missing a ball.
“I could have lost there and still had a pretty good week, two good wins, on to the next one.
”But I stayed the course, stayed optimistic and I came up with some clutch shots. Next thing you know I win that, I beat Roberto Butista Agut, I beat [world number three] Stefanos Tsitsipas – ends up being a longer week.
“I think this week was a great example of using that optimistic mindset as much as possible. Look [at] what this does for my ranking.”
“When you play Reilly, I think still the biggest factor is how you serve and how you return,” analyzed Medvedev, pointing to a happy state of affairs given that those elements are two renowned strengths of his game. “Actually, my serve was not on top point today.
“That’s why I had break points 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.
Medvedev 💬, in press conference after his Toronto title: “Well, it’s (Federer’s new knee surgery) a pity for everybody. We love watching him play. Hopefully we can still see him back on tour, because I think that’s what he wants. That’s what everybody wants.”(💬 @asapsports) pic.twitter.com/BP8Cqt5o8m
— We Are Tennis (@WeAreTennis) August 16, 2021
“I think he didn’t almost have maybe one or two easy games in the match. That’s what made the difference, if we talk about tennis.
”Playing Canada and Cincinnati, the goal is to win as many matches as possible. I was able to do it two years ago and I will try and do it again.”
Medvedev, who could overhaul his Australian Open final nemesis Djokovic by the end of the year, has his next shot at a Grand Slam crown when the US Open begins on August 30.