Unseeded Opelka upsets Tsitsipas to earn spot in National Bank Open final – Sportsnet.ca
There’ll be some familiar matchups at the final day of the National Bank Open Sunday.
No. 1-seed Daniil Medvedev will take on American qualifier Reilly Opelka in the men’s tournament in Toronto, while Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic faces Italy’s Camila Giorgi on the women’s side in Montreal.
Both duos have met before.
Medvedev, the world No. 2, has faced Opelka four times on the ATP Tour, with each match going to three sets. The Russian has won three of the contests, including the last meeting in the round of 32 at this year’s French Open.
Medvedev secured his spot in the final with a 6-2, 6-2 win over American John Isner in the semifinal. The 25-year-old hit 11 aces and won 4-of-7 break points in the speedy 54-minute match.
Medvedev said the six-foot-10 Isner wasn’t dishing out the same booming serve he’s known for on Saturday.
“I need to be honest _ I think something was bothering him,” he told reporters after the match. “I knew that I need to do the match from my side. I felt like I could return so that’s what I was trying to do in the rally, I was just trying to keep pressure on him all the time.
“I was serving pretty big also, so I’m just happy with my level of the game and happy with the result, that’s for sure.”
Medvedev reached the final at the tournament in 2019, when the event was known as the Rogers Cup. He lost in straight sets to Rafael Nadal.
The Russian said he’s worked hard over the past two years to get better.
“I don’t want to say that I’ve become a 10-times better tennis player, playing better forehand or backhand,” he said. “If you try to stay on the same place, you’re going to regress. I heard it from many champions and from many people in life, business people or whatever.
“I try to improve every day. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes I get crazy on the courts, sometimes not. But that’s what life is about. It’s about emotions, it’s about every day trying to learn new things.”
Opelka upset No. 3-seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece in a marathon two-hour, 32-minute match to collect a spot in Sunday’s match.
Opelka saved the lone break point he faced, hit 17 aces and won 77 per cent of his first serve points in the 6(2)-7, 7-6(4), 6-4 win.
“I really was clutch with not only my serve but my volleys in the big moments,” he said
Midway through the 54-minute-long first set, the American hit a no-look, backwards shot between his legs from well below the baseline, only to see Tsitsipas return it across the court, just out of his reach.
“That was my only option from there,” Opelka said with a grin. “It’s kind of somewhat a highlight but tweeners are so common now, I always say they’re so mainstream, they’re not even cool anymore because everyone hits them.”
The first tiebreak saw the Greek go up 2-1 when Opelka, ranked 32nd in the world, came up to the net and sent a shot well out of bounds. The momentum seemed to swing, then, with Tsitsipas ultimately taking the tiebreak on an ace.
It was more of the same in the second set, with the six-foot-11 Opelka’s serve reaching speeds of up to 227 kilometres per hour, but Tsitsipas continued to adapt and respond.
The American went up 6-4 in the second tiebreak when Tsitsipas double faulted. Tsitsipas repeatedly threw his racket in frustration as Opelka finally took the tiebreak. He received a warning for racket abuse.
There were no signs of frustration, though, coming into the third set. Again, the duo each held fast to their serve and attempted to force their opponent into a misstep.
Tsitsipas got his first chance at a break point midway through the third set. Opelka responded with a massive serve that broke a string and forced him to switch rackets. The new tool provided him no trouble, as he got the point back with a quick drop shot and eventually took the game to knot the set at 3-3.
A pair of double faults saw Tsitsipas face a break point in the next game. He sailed a return high and wide, giving Opelka the first break of the match.
The Greek then took a ball out of his pocket and smashed it into the stands in frustration, and was handed a point penalty in response.
“I think he felt that I was serving well, I was earning points in a lot of different ways on my serve,” Opelka said. “Maybe it was just a fluke game, but I like to think it was pressure that I put on him with holding so easily the whole match.”
Opelka sealed the victory with one last blast of a serve that Tsitsipas simply couldn’t corral.
“It was played on the details and he prevailed,” Tsitsipas said of the loss. “It just didn’t go my way when it had to. And it’s alright. I feel like there’s hope for next time.”
At the women’s tournament in Montreal, Pliskova calmly clinched her spot in the final with a 6-3, 6-4 win over the top-seeded Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus on Saturday.
She celebrated her first-set win with a muted fist pump, and when Sabalenka broke her in the second set, the No. 4 seed from the Czech Republic didn’t show any signs of being flustered.
“I’m quite calm. Of course I have some nerves and emotions but I try not to show it that much,” the 29-year-old said.
“There is a lot of things happening on the court but I think the main thing is just to have a goal and follow that goal.”
Sabalenka struggled with consistency throughout the match, registering five double faults and saving just 4-of-7 break points. She threw her racket to the ground in frustration early in the second set.
Meanwhile, Pliskova remained collected, and used her strong serve to keep her out of trouble. In the second set, the world No. 6 saved a break point with an ace, then preserved the hold with two other serves that Sabalenka simply couldn’t control.
“I think I was super solid today,” she said. “Just did everything I was supposed to do to win this match.”
Pliskova will face Italy’s Camila Giorgi on Sunday.
Giorgi, ranked 71st in the world, downed American qualifier Jessica Pegula 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 in the second semifinal on Saturday, hitting four aces and saving 7-of-10 break points en route to the victory.
Pliskova and Giorgi previously met at the Tokyo Olympics, where Giorgi took a straight-sets win in the round of 16.
The lone Canadian left in this year’s National Bank Open is Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski who, alongside doubles partner Luisa Stefani of Brazil, punched a ticket to the final with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Russian Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan in semifinal action.
On Sunday, they’ll face Croatia’s Darija Jurak and Andreja Klepac of Slovenia. The two teams met in the final of the Silicon Valley Classic, where Jurak and Klepac won 6-1, 7-5.
Senators' playoff push takes huge hit with Chychrun lower-body injury – CBC Sports
Senators defenceman Jakob Chychrun will be sidelined multiple weeks due to a lower-body injury, head coach D.J. Smith told TSN 1200 in Ottawa on Saturday.
Smith also announced forward Ridly Greig will miss the remainder of the regular season due to a sternum injury.
Both players were injured during the Senators’ 7-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday. Chychrun did not participate in practice Friday, and Smith told reporters that the defenceman “tugged something there a little bit, we’ll see how he reacts to treatment here.”
The Senators (35-32-5) have 10 games remaining in the regular season, which ends April 13 at Buffalo. Ottawa is five points out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference entering play Saturday.
Chychrun, who turns 25 on Friday, has recorded five points in 12 games with the Senators since being acquired from the Arizona Coyotes on March 1. He had seven goals and 28 points in 36 contests this season with the Coyotes.
Chychrun has 62 goals and 175 points in 385 career outings with Arizona and Ottawa since being selected by the Coyotes with the 16th overall pick of the 2016 NHL draft.
Greig, 20, has six points in 16 games this season, his first in the NHL. He was drafted by the Senators with the 28th overall pick in 2020.
Canadiens Forward Mike Hoffman Calls Out Department Of Safety
Montreal Canadiens forward Mike Hoffman is not a happy camper.
The 33-year-old forward took to Instagram to discuss the recent one-game suspension of Boston Bruins forward A.J. Greer.
Hoffman, freshly decorated with a gnarly battle scar after the ridiculous cross-check by Greer during Thursday night’s matchup between the Canadiens and the Bruins, expressed his concern with the lack of consistency from the NHL’s Department Of Player Safety.
“I’ve gotten a two-game suspension for cross-checking a guy in the back of the helmet,” said a wound-muffled Hoffman. “A full-blown, intentional cross-check to the face? One game. Hmmm.”
TALK YOUR SHIT MIKE 🗣️🗣️🗣️ pic.twitter.com/cPaXmjUQrY
— Habs Fan TV (@habsfantv_) March 24, 2023
Hoffman’s message was clear: the standard has dropped in recent years, especially if we compare the decision made on Friday to the decision made in 2016 when Hoffman was suspended for two games after his cross-check rode up Logan Couture’s back and hit him in the helmet.
That’s not to say Hoffman did not deserve a suspension. If anything, the ruling at the time was a step toward erring on the side of caution when brain injuries were in play, putting an onus on player safety in a spot that oftentimes forgets about the well-being of its employees.
Greer’s cross-check, on the other hand, was about as blatant as it gets, leaving a trail of blood behind the Canadiens forward as he quickly exited the ice.
There was some tomfoolery prior to the faceoff, perhaps even a little kerfuffle, but there’s no justifying a blatant cross-check which resulted in an injury.
By handing down a one-game suspension, the Department of Player Safety deemed Greer’s attack three times less severe than accidentally spitting on an opponent, which carries a three-game suspension in the NHL.
Hoffman returned to the game in the third period sporting a full birdcage, and though he did not miss significant time, he clearly did not appreciate the lack of safety provided by the NHL’s Department Of Misnomers.
Szeryk, Jutanugarn, Shin share lead at Superstition Mountain
GOLD CANYON, Ariz. (AP) — Jenny Shin of South Korea had a run of five straight birdies to close out her front nine on the way to a 5-under 67 on Friday and shared the lead with Maddie Szeryk of Canada and Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand after two rounds of the LPGA Drive on Championship.
Jutanugarn raced up the leaderboard, following an opening 67 with a bogey-free 7-under 65 that included an eagle and five birdies. Szeryk pieced together a round that included an eagle and six birdies, including one on her final hole, while Shin used seven birdies to offset two bogeys to get to 12-under 132 at Superstition Mountain Golf and Country Club in the LPGA’s first full-field event of the year.
American Lilia Vu shot a 6 under and was a stroke off the lead, while South Korea’s Na Rin An (67) and American Alison Lee (69) were tied for fifth place at 10 under.
No. 3-ranked Jin Young Ko, a winner two weeks ago in Singapore, had a second-round 65 and was among eight players tied for seventh place at 9 under on the crowded leaderboard.
The event marks the debut of the tour’s new cut policy. The cutline after 36 holes includes the top 65 players and ties advancing to the weekend. Previously, the top 70 players and ties advanced to the final rounds.
The cutline fell at 3 under, with 76 players advancing. Two of the big names missing the cut included three-time major winner Anna Nordqvist of Sweden and two-time major champion Brook Henderson of Canada, both at 1 under.
Shin, looking for her first win since 2016, overcame a sluggish bogey-birdie-par-bogey start to the second round and then went on a birdie tear on Nos. 14 through 18, her front nine, to get to 11 under. She went bogey free on her back nine and added a birdie at the par-4 third hole to get to 12 under.
Shin said she was surprised by unexpected swirling wind at the start of her round, and didn’t immediately realize her string of birdies.
“The bogey on the first hole didn’t help,” the 30-year-old said. “I was like, ‘Oh, no. Here we go again.’ I stayed calm. I try not to get in my head too much. … So I didn’t know I was doing five in a row until I just checked the scorecard. So it’s a good thing that I didn’t know.”
The highlight of Jutanugarn’s round was her eagle at No. 7, where she hit a good drive that finished on the cart path. After a drop, she got a favorable bounce on her second shot that settled on the back of the green, and she made the putt for an eagle 3.
“The next two days just trying to go out and have fun and do what I should do, what is under my control,” the 2013 rookie of the year and two-time tour winner said. “I think, of course, it’s more fun when you feel like you’re in contention.”
The 26-year-old Szeryk, in her second year on tour after a rookie campaign that included making five cuts in 14 events in 2022, sees being tied for the lead after 36 holes — and whatever follows — as a learning experience.
“It’s so amazing to be back in this position because I love being out here and I’m just so thankful to God to have another opportunity to be out here and to really compete with the best players, she said. “But I’m just on such a high.
“Just really excited for what the weekend has in store. … But it was great to see those putts go in and make those birdies coming down the stretch.”
Second-ranked Nelly Korda, the highest-ranked player in the field with No. 1 Lydia Ko not competing, followed an opening 70 with a 66 and was among those tied for 15th at 8 under.
Also at 8 under was Yuka Saso, but her route to a tie for 15th was highlighted by her first albatross, when she made a 2 on the 492-yard, par-5 second hole.
Saso used a hybrid from 217 yards ou t on her second shot and knew the approach was online with the pin.
“I mean, we didn’t really know where it landed and where it finishes, so we were just walking to the green and everyone started clapping,” she said. “But my ball wasn’t on the green so I was like, why are they clapping? Is it over? Why is everyone clapping if it’s not on the green?”
It turns out her playing partner, Sei Young Kim, looked into the hole and let her know it was in.
“It was one of my dreams to get one, but we all know how hard it is to get one,” Saso said. “They say you’re lucky if you ever get one in your golf career. I guess I was very lucky to have it.”
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