Rafael Nadal, the sole representative of the Big Three at the Coupe Rogers this week, successfully defended his crown in Canada with a demolition job over Daniil Medvedev, 6-3, 6-0, in a little over an hour.
The triumph, which bore resemblance to the Spaniard’s dismissal of Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Toronto final twelve months ago, marked the 35th Masters title of Nadal’s career. Notably, it was the first of the non-clay variety which he was able to defend in his glittering career.
“I think I played a solid match, my best match of the week,” the 33-year-old said courtside. “Finals are little bit more difficult for everyone, and I’ve played a lot of ones, so I know they can be tricky against players who are playing with a lot of confidence.”
On the fact it has taken him 14 years since he triumphed in Canada to go back-to-back at the same event outside of clay, Nadal said: “It’s so important to be back on hard court and winning again. It gives me confidence.
“It’s nothing special [being able to defend the title]. It’s important just to win the title, whether I’m defending it or not defending it.”
A man on a mission
The Spaniard famously upstaged Andre Agassi here in 2005 as a fresh-faced 19-year-old and Medvedev, four years older but displaying similar week-to-week consistency, was bidding to produce a similar feat.
The pair had never met before, but Nadal would have been conscious of the Russian’s prowess on hard court, his unorthodox groundstrokes propelling him to three different finals on the surface this year. Nick Kyrgios proved a hurdle too high to scale in last week’s Citi Open final but Medvedev had brushed himself off to reach the final in Montreal without dropping a set.
And he looked in steady hands during the opening exchanges, taking Nadal to deuce in the Spaniard’s opening service game. An early break opportunity slipped through his fingers, but he was matching Nadal stride-for-stride from the baseline. It was to prove little more than a false dawn.
The French Open champion then began to settle nicely, befuddling Medvedev with his backhand slice, and he broke for a 3-1 advantage soon after. A double break ought to have followed but the Russian swatted Nadal’s advances aside, before the Spaniard sealed the opening set in 41 minutes.
Very rarely does Nadal wilt when he holds the advantage in finals and it was a similar tale infront of a sell-out crowd in Montreal. The weather had inadvertently aided the Spaniard’s cause when it forced his semi-final opponent Gael Monfils to confront the prospect of two matches in the space of five hours. The Frenchman declined the offer and the extra spring in Nadal’s step was apparent when he immediately broke to start the second set.
Thereafter, Medvedev appeared forlorn. He would drop two more times to suffer the ignominy of a bagel set in a Masters 1000 final. The only crumb of comfort being that Nadal inflicted similar embarrassment on Novak Djokovic in Rome three months ago.