The National Bank Open draws to a close in Toronto on Sunday when two men who might not have been expected to battle it out for the title do so when Jannik Sinner takes on Alex de Minaur for the latest Masters 1000 trophy.
These two men have seen off some lively opposition this week and have made it through to the final on merit. Neither are yet in the elite levels of the sport but a win here will certainly propel them towards that status, which should make for an exciting final.
While the likes of Carlos Alcaraz, Daniil Medvedev and Stefanos Tsitsipas were seen as probable challengers for this title, I don’t think too many are surprised that Jannik Sinner is in the final because he has been spoken highly of for a long time and is probably the next cab off the rank in terms of coming from outside the top five in the world to challenge for events of this magnitude. His play this week has suggested that is the case too.
The Italian has reached the final of two Masters 1000 events in his career, both of which were on a hard court. He would have been disappointed to lose to Hubert Hurkacz in Miami two years ago but would have been the outsider against Daniil Medvedev at the same tournament earlier this year. He didn’t win a set in either of those finals and it will be interesting to see how he copes with being the overwhelming favourite in this match.
Alex de Minaur
The Australian number one Alex de Minaur arrived in Toronto with his confidence sufficiently boosted by a run to the final in Mexico last week and he now prepares to play for a title for the second Sunday in succession. He went down relatively comfortably to Stefanos Tsitsipas last Sunday and goes into this final as the outsider too but having seen off the likes of Taylor Fritz and Daniil Medvedev already this week, nobody can argue that he doesn’t deserve his place here.
This will be the fourth final that de Minaur has competed in during 2023 and number 14 of his career on the ATP Tour. He is 7-6 for the ones he has played in the past but this will be the first time he battles for a title at this level so this is clearly a big day in his career. De Minaur has won a title in America having won in Atlanta in 2019 and he also won on the hard courts in Mexico earlier in the year so the Aussie should quietly fancy his chances here.
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These two men have met on four previous occasions, although one of them was in the Next Gen Finals over the quirky rules of that tournament. Of their three main draw meetings, Sinner has won all three dropping just one set in the process. Two of those three wins were on a hard court. He also won that Next Gen battle against the two so he definitely has more than an edge in their past battles. This is the first time they will have met any later in a tournament than the quarter finals though and so the Aussie will be hoping that the different pressure that brings can bring about a different outcome.
Jannik Sinner is a very warm favourite for this final but I think Alex de Minaur merits a little more respect from the layers than he is getting. His wins over Taylor Fritz and Daniil Medvedev this week show that he is hitting the ball very well and is capable of handling pressure. I would make Sinner the favourite for this one, as much for their previous meetings and talent as anything else, but de Minaur will hang in there and give this all he has got.
One issue I have with Sinner is he has underperformed in both of his previous finals at this level and he had the night session semi-final, which although didn’t turn into an epic or anything, is still an inconvenience ahead of such a big match. If Sinner does get the job done here I’m not convinced he does it as emphatically as he has won their previous meetings. This is the first Masters 1000 event for de Minaur though so he could get a little tight were he to be in a position to serve for this so I’ll take the Australian but on the handicap in case that scenario presents itself.
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