Top Seeds Nadal and Thiem Reach Montreal Third Round
By Charles David Mathieu-Poulin
(August 7, 2019) MONTREAL – Despite a few mid-afternoon rain delays, a lot of stories were written today in Montreal, as top seeds struggled to reach the Coupe Rogers third round. On their first summer hardcourt matches, top two seeds Rafael Nadal and Dominic Thiem had to battle hard to defeat spirited opponents, while 4th seed Stefanos Tsitsipas and 5th seed Kei Nishikori were upset in three sets.
Rafael Nadal has great memories in Montreal: in 2005, he beat Andre Agassi in the final to win his first ever hardcourt tournament. Fourteen years later, the top seed was starting his 2019 tournament against Dan Evans, who has been quickly climbing back up the ranks after the one-year drug ban he received in 2017.
The Brit had played solid tennis in the first round to beat young Alex De Minaur, and he showed a great mix of aggressive tennis and soft hands to take an early break lead against Nadal. Despite Evan’s inspired play and two short rain delays, the Spaniard managed to break back to level at 3-all. Both players then held serve until a tiebreak, where Evans gave himself two set points. After great play to save the first one, Nadal then went on to string three straight points to seal the first set 7-6(6). After yet another rain delay, much longer that time, Nadal came back stronger in the second set to win it 6-4. ‘’Today, the main thing was to win, Nadal said. I know with victories that other things will be coming slowly. Today I competed well enough to be through. Tomorrow is another challenge.’’ In tomorrow’s first night match, the tournament’s first seed with play Guido Pella, after the Argentinian beat Radu Albot in a third-set tiebreak early in the day.
In another much-anticipated clash, second seed Dominic Thiem was facing Canada’s own Denis Shapovalov. The Austrian was looking for his first ever win in Canada, after losing all five matches he played in Montreal and Toronto, while Shapovalov had reached the semifinals as a 17-year-old in Montreal in 2017.
Shapovalov looked like the dominant player early on, getting three consecutive break points in the second game, then one more in the sixth. But Thiem managed to save them all with good serving and was himself more opportunistic when given his first break chance at 4-all. He then went on to serve out the set at love. ‘’I definitely had a lot of chances to win the first set’’, Shapovalov confirmed.
But the Canadian did well to move past it, finding another gear in the second set to win it 6-3 to the delight of the crowd. ‘’I think we both picked up our game, raised the level in the second and third sets, Shapovalov said.’’ Indeed, both players looked in control on serve, until Shapovalov served at 3-4. The Canadian then played a string of loose points, including an uncharacteristic wild miss on a smash on breakpoint. ‘’These kind of smashes, especially in a tough situation where you’re under lot of pressure, they look way easier than they are, Thiem said. Of course, for me was great that he missed it so I got the break’’. Despite serving a double fault on the first point, Thiem won the last four to set up a mouth-watering third-round match with former US Open champion Marin Cilic.
In other matches, rising star Hubert Hurkacz surprised last year’s finalist and 4th seed Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-4 3-6 6-3, while veteran Richard Gasquet got his 8th win out of eleven matches against 5th seed Kei Nishikori. At night, hometown favorite Felix Auger-Aliassime got his third round ticket when countryman Milos Raonic retired with a lower back injury at the start of the third set. On his 19th birthday tomorrow, Auger-Aliassime will face 6th seed Karen Kachanov, who beat Stan Wawrinka 6-4 6-7(3) 6-2.
Charles David Mathieu-Poulin is covering the Coupe Rogers in Montreal for Tennis Panorama News.