Top seed Daniil Medvedev made a winning return at the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers on Tuesday, the tournament in which the Russian enjoyed a breakthrough run to his first ATP Masters 1000 final in 2019.
The World No. 2 was made to work hard, overcoming Kazakhstan’s Alexander Bublik 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 in a rain-disrupted clash in Toronto to kick start his North American hard-court swing.
“[The rain delay] helped a lot,” Medvedev said in his on-court interview. “I don’t know if the conditions changed with the humidity, but I was not playing well before the rain. I had my opportunities. I was missing second-serve returns, missing balls. I knew I had to play better if I was to win.
“When back on the court, from the first game I felt much better. I only felt better and better during the match, he did not have one break point [after the rain]. I turned around the match completely. It is a tough draw, even without Rafael Nadal. It does open up the draw [though] for sure.”
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Medvedev is looking to capture his 12th tour-level title this week in a country where he has fond memories. In 2019, the 25-year-old broke new ground at Canada’s Masters 1000 event. He cruised through to the final in Montreal, not dropping a set before falling to Nadal.
It was a run that helped propel Medvedev to his maiden Masters 1000 title in Cincinnati one week later and his first Grand Slam final at the US Open the following month.
Medvedev, who has since won two more Masters 1000 titles and captured the 2020 Nitto ATP Finals crown, served well throughout against Bublik. The Russian caused the World No. 39 problems with his flat backhand to improve to 4-0 in their ATP Head2Head Series.
It is the third time Medvedev has defeated Bublik this season, having downed the 24-year-old at Roland Garros and the Tokyo Olympics in straight sets. The top seed will next face either #NextGenATP Italian Jannik Sinner or James Duckworth in the third round.
Bublik made a fast start in Toronto as he looked to move the Russian around. After Medvedev fended off three break points from 0/40 in the fifth game, he was unable to do so again moments later, misfiring on serve to fall 4-5 behind. Bublik, who brought his usual variety and entertainment to court, held serve to move ahead.
After rain temporally halted play with Medvedev leading 2-1 in the second set, the 25-year-old returned to court just under an hour later in a determined mood. He won three of the first four games on resumption as he stepped inside the baseline to close out points quickly. Having drawn level, Medvedev then dropped just three points on serve in the third set to seal his win in two hours.
Bublik, who leads the ace count on tour this year, has enjoyed a strong season. The 24-year-old advanced to finals in Antalya and Singapore, while also reaching the quarter-finals at two Masters 1000 events in Miami and Madrid.