US Open – round 1st

It’s the first US Open since 2003 without Rafael Nadal! The 2010 champion has been struggling with a knee injury since Wimbledon. Among distinctive names also withdrew: Gael Monfils, Juan Carlos Ferrero, Juan Ignacio Chela (all guys inactive in recent weeks) and David Nalbandian, who pulled out when the draw was made (Florent Serra replaced him as a lucky loser). Nadal’s compatriots, Fernando Verdasco and Nicolas Almagro come back in action (they skipped all warm-up tournaments on hardcourts before the Open).

Milos Raonic [16] notched an important win in his bid for the Top 10 position. The Canadian beat Santiago Giraldo three times to ‘4’ at the last Wimbledon, and tended to take another routine victory over the Colombian. In the 2nd set he held all his service games comfortably until 4:5 when leading 30/15 missed five straight serves! Giraldo risked return on set point and the ball touched the baseline – Raonic lost his service self-confidence then. He was broken in the 3rd set as well as at the beginning of the 4th… 1:3 (30-all) and second serve – Raonic delivered an ace (30 in total), and the things turned in his favor. Giraldo in my opinion is the least reliable player in tight situations among regular ATP players. Serving to stay in the match at 4:5 in the 5th set he made a winner to get to 30-all which was followed up with two pathetic forehand errors just after Raonic’s soft returns. The Canadian prevailed 6-3 4-6 3-6 6-4 6-4 – his first five-set win at major.
Guilermo Garcia-Lopez [68] was close to make the most amazing comeback of the season as he faced Juan Monaco in Stuttgart last July. GGL came back from a 0:5 deficit in the final set then, but lost 5-7 anyway. What he hadn’t been able to produce in the “best of three” match, he managed to make in the “best of five” encounter. Their first round match at the US Open had three different phases underlined by different lights above the Grandstand. First, under a sunny sky Monaco was doing on court everything perfectly, and after winning two sets easily, led 4:1* in the 3rd. More or less at the time floodlights were activated. GGL found his rhythm, and leveled up at two sets apiece being two points away to lose in four sets. He led with a break twice in the 5th set when some physical problems pestered him. It was a time of the sunset. Monaco came back from 3:5 (deuce) to hold two mini-match points at 5-all – GGL fought it off with good first serves, one of the points was replayed after unfortunate outcome for the Argentine (his good ball was called ‘out’). In the final tie-break, the slightly hobbling Garcia-Lopez went for his shots, he simply did something Monaco has big problems with, namely took the risk when the pressure was higher and it paid dividends.
Generally speaking the first three days were marked by stunning comebacks from two-sets-to-love. Beside Garcia-Lopez also Alexandr Dolgopolov, Philipp Petzschner, Paul Henri Mathieu, Marin Cilic, Janko Tipsarevic, Ernests Gulbis, Fabio Fognini and Gilles Muller survived 5-set battles losing the first two sets. Dolgopolov was already 0:4 down in the 3rd set against Jesse Levine when woke up winning 18 out the next 21 games! Mathieu saved two match points at *5:6 in the 4th set against Igor Andreev [100]. It’s amazing how Andreev from a strong mentally player turned into an extreme choker (it happened in 2006 when he suffered left knee injury). Gulbis was *1:3 in the 3rd set against an in-form Tommy Haas, saved a mini-match point at 4:4 in the 4th with a backhand dropshot. The decisive moment of that match (3-6 4-6 6-4 7-5 6-3) came at 3:3 (0/15) on Gulbis’ serve. Haas won an entertaining rally, perhaps the best rally of the match with a passing-shot on the run. Unfortunately it cost him cramp in the right leg, and slightly limping he couldn’t win a game to the end. “Mindset is that you don’t care anymore,” said Gulbis [145], who struck 70 winners. “You’re two sets down, you’re a break down. You simply don’t care. Then magic happens suddenly. You win a break back, you win a set and you’re back in the match.” Yet the most incredible from 2-sets-to-0 deficit victory scored Gilles Muller [53], who was close to lose each of his three sets won against Mikhail Youzhny. Muller saved a mini-match point at 5-all in the 3rd set, trailed 3:5 in both tie-breaks and saved on serve a match point at 5:6 in the first tie-break and another one at 5:6 in games in the deciding set!! It’s barely the fourth case in the Open era that a player wins a match at the US Open winning three consecutive sets in a five-setter with ‘seven’ ahead of each set, Muller has won 2 of them! # The first round didn’t disappoint local fans – the best Americans won their matches with a relative easy, two completely unknown Yankees notched first wins at the main level: 18-year-old Dennis Novikov [1098] & four years older left-handed Bradley Klahn [489]. The latter, using powerful top-spin on his forehand, upset a declining Jurgen Melzer in almost 4-hour duel.

Longest match: 4 hours, 31 minutes. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez d. Juan Monaco 3-6, 1-6, 6-4, 7-6(6), 7-6(3)
Most aces: 32 – Ivo Karlovic, lost to Jimmy Wang in four sets
5-set barometer:
20-19 Tommy Haas, 17-11 Mikhail Youzhny, 15-7 Janko Tipsarevic, 15-15 Jurgen Melzer, 13-6 Marin Cilic, 11-6 Marcos Baghdatis, 9-6 Gilles Simon, 9-10 Paul-Henri Mathieu, 8-7 Philipp Petzschner, 8-2 Gilles Muller, 7-5 Fabio Fognini, 7-3 Alexandr Dolgopolov, 6-3 Guillermo Garcia-Lopez, 6-10 Igor Andreev, 4-7 Juan Monaco, 3-5 Ernests Gulbis, 3-6 Nicolas Mahut, 2-1 Milos Raonic, 2-4 Teymuraz Gabashvili, Michael Russell & Edouard Roger-Vasselin, 1-4 Bobby Reynolds, 1-4 Jesse Levine, 1-6 Santiago Giraldo, 1-0 Tim Smyczek, Rogerio Dutra Silva & Bradley Klahn, 1-1 Guillaume Rufin, 0-2 Marinko Matosevic
# 5-setters at the US Open with 3 straight tight sets won by one player:
1979: John Lloyd d. Paul McNamee 5-7, 6-7, 7-5, 7-6, 7-6
1983: Johan Kriek d. Roscoe Tanner 6-7(5), 3-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(3), 7-6(2)
2008: Gilles Muller d. Nicolas Almagro 6-7(3), 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(6), 7-5
2012: Gilles Muller d. Mikhail Youzhny 2-6, 3-6, 7-5, 7-6(6), 7-6(6)
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US Open 1986

It was the highest point in Ivan Lendl‘s career. The 26-year-old Czechoslovak had won in 1986: ‘Masters’ (January ’86), so-called “fifth Grand Slam” at Boca Raton and Roland Garros. With a slow decline of his arch-American rivals (John McEnroe, Jimmy Connors) he confirmed his powerful supremacy over the whole tennis world, losing just one set in the fortnight. The tournament indicated not only a decline of two great American players but also the entire generation of Yankees overall – for the first time in the Open era just one of them advanced to the US Open quarterfinals (Tim Wilkison), and for the first time in the era, neither of them appeared in semifinals. Read more
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34th week

This gallery contains 1 photo.

John Isner [10] defended his titles this year in Newport and Winston-Salem (adding his first title in Auckland he has now won five). The giant American survived three tight matches: in the opening round was two points away from defeat to Klizan, … Continue reading

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Wimbledon 1991

For the first time in Wimbledon’s 105-year history, because of atrocious weather, there was play on the sacrosanct middle Sunday! The first round of the tournament is supposed to be concluded in two days, at Wimbledon ’91 the last matches of the first round were finished on Friday (28 consecutive days of rain in London in total until Saturday)! The best player of the 80s, Ivan Lendl [3] lost his last reasonable chance to get the long-awaited Wimbledon title, ten years younger star – Andre Agassi [5] appeared at All-England Club for the first time in four years despite earlier assertions that he wouldn’t play there again in regard of etiquette of the white outfit. It was Michael Stich‘s fortnight – the slender and graceful German [7] defeated three best players at the time in a row: Jim Courier, Stefan Edberg and Boris Becker, the last two had played three previous Wimbledon finals against each other. Read more
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Cincinnati – final

(1)Roger Federer d. (2)Novak Djokovic   6-0, 7-6(7)           [1:20 h]

The 20-minute first set was a d’joke. Djokovic hadn’t lost a service games in twelve consecutive sets before the final, and all of a sudden displayed a service performance of a nervous junior, who got a privilege to face arguably the greatest player of all-time on a big arena. In the 1st game Djokovic committed a double fault and made two unforced forehand errors, in the 3rd game two double faults and an unforced backhand error, in his third service game he played a bit better but still too weak to win demanded four points. Federer in his service games was brilliant: serves, forehands and volleys worked perfectly, he wasn’t even forced to checking out his relatively weaker stroke – the backhand. The Serb was calm though, and erased his memories of the pathetic set. The full packed house witnessed a mutually good second set. No break points after twelve games, Federer began the tie-break with a 3:0 lead. Djokovic managed to get two points on Federer’s serve and led 4:3, afterwards 5:4. Federer’s first match point Djokovic fought off with a penetrating forehand, Federer leveled up at 7-all with a smash. Two cross-court forehand winners and the final was over. There’s one weakness in Djokovic’s stable mentality – despite a great tie-break ratio (131/76) he has negative record in tie-breaks which reach at least 7-all (12/18). I assume there’s no logical explanation of this fact. Federer’s comeback to the highest level this year is mesmerizing. He has quite comfortable position to regain the No. 1 in the end of the season after two-year break given Nadal’s current withdrawal and the indoor season which always lifts the Swiss maestro. I expect the upcoming US Open should be vital. All indicates that Federer and Djokovic would meet there in the final again, and a winner of this match will very likely finish 2012 as the best player in the world. In Cincinnati, Federer captured 76th title, including 21 ‘Masters 1000’ (ties Nadal) and record-breaking 5 titles at the Western & Southern Open # – it’s one of very few biggest tournaments the Serbian player hasn’t won yet. “I’m obviously very happy. If I remember correctly, this was the first win here I had also after I had twins, right? So it’s great coming back here,” said Federer. “I’ve been able to win five. It’s obviously incredible because I remember the first few here I struggled. Now looking back it’s just unbelievable. Plus this was probably the best week ever here in Cincinnati for me never dropping my serve and all that stuff and beating Novak in the final. This was very sweet. No doubt about it.” Stats of the final

Doubles final:
(4)R.Lindstedt/H.Tecau d. (6)M.Bhupathi/R.Bopanna 6-4, 6-4

# Most successful players in Cincinnati:
5 titles – Roger Federer (2005, 07, 09-10, 12)
4 – Mats Wilander (1983-88)
3 – Pete Sampras (1992-99) & Andre Agassi (1995-2004)
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Cincinnati – semifinals

Clay, hard indoors, grass, hard outdoors – in this order Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro have played their last four matches – outcome of this competition 2:2 (Djokovic leads 5-2 overall). Del Potro could afford to play backhand slices against Troicki and pushing backhands against Chardy, however, to be a competitor against Djokovic, the Argentine needs to hit backhands even harder than against most of very good players as he did it in their bronze medal match two weeks ago. His left wrist was bothering him, competed with the Serb clearly beneath the required level, and after 87 minutes Djokovic advanced to the final by a 6-3 6-2 margin. Del Potro: “I had I think six break points in the match and I didn’t take any one. Against Novak or the top players, if you don’t take your opportunities, you will lose for sure. I think he played much better than me today basically in the important moments or the break points. He was too good for me.
Stanislas Wawrinka is able to take part in decent matches against the “big boys” in contrary to many players with a Top 20 potential. The problem with Wawrinka is that he suffers a lack of amazingness at crucial moments. He can play very good tennis through long sequences of a match, winning many points which are technically complex, but when the pressure is bigger in latter stages of sets he just can’t elevate himself to an inspired tennis. Today he’d saved five set points against Roger Federer before the 1st set tie-break which gave him some psychological edge. At 2-all in the tie-break he had a good chance to win a spectacular point (after Federer’s overhead) but failed, in my opinion he had a time to play offensive forehand, perhaps an instant winner; instead he chose a backhand slice option, and these nuances separate him from winning important sets against guys like Federer, Nadal and Djokovic… 7-6(4) 6-3 in the end for Federer – his 11th win in 12 meetings with the younger compatriot.

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Cincinnati – round 3rd + QF’s


Despite different clothing brands (Nike, Lacoste), Juan Martin del Potro and Jeremy Chardy looked almost the same on the court during the first quarterfinal: two tall slim guys in white socks, black shirts and yellow T-shirts, but the difference in their tennis-class was huge. Del Potro’s troubles with left wrist seemed to have gone away, he came back to his standard double-handed usage on the backhand but didn’t try to hit winners from this side. His forehand is strong enough to get many points on Chardy’s weak slicing backhand. The Argentine created break point opportunities almost in every service game of the Frenchman (17 in total) and won 6-1 6-3 in 76 minutes. It’s painful to watch as some of the Top 20 guys are hopeless against the “big boys”. It had been Gasquet’s case on Sunday versus Novak Djokovic, and the scenario was repeated in Djokovic’s match against Marin Cilic. The Croat is able to play solidly from the baseline when he dictates the pace, when he is forced to running in different directions, he becomes an error-machine, and he hasn’t a plan “B”. Djokovic knows it very well and didn’t even try to display his full potential, he restricted himself to moving Cilic around the court with the good placement, obtaining a comfortable 6-3 6-2 victory in 81 minutes – Djokovic has now won 14 sets (two tie-breaks) in a row against Cilic. Stanislas Wawrinka [26] appeared as a frustrated man until the the tie-break of the 2nd set facing Milos Raonic. The Canadian allowed his opponent in his first 10 service games to get just one ‘deuce’ and a routine two-set victory was nearly sealed by him. He led *4:2 in the tie-break approaching the net with a slice as Wawrinka made his best perpendicular backhand of the day which clipped the sideline. This shot turned the tables, the Swiss won the tie-break having lost  seven previous, and converted his only break point of the match in the 3rd game of the decider, holding the next four service games and winning 2-6 7-6(5) 6-4. Wawrinka is through to the semi-finals of a Masters 1000 event for the first time since 2009 (Monte Carlo). Extremely tough task ahead of him because in the semifinal he meets Roger Federer, who defeated Mardy Fish 6-3 7-6(4) in the last quarterfinal, not facing a break point. “This week I’m playing great tennis,” said Wawrinka. “I had a tough last two months. It was not easy, especially after the French Open. I played a great French Open, but then I lost [in the] first round at Wimbledon, Gstaad [and the] Olympics.”

Third round

Mardy Fish [20] is enjoying his best tournament of the season, after quick trashing of Feliciano Lopez and Carlos Berlocq, Fish has notched third easy win in a row,  dismantling 6-3 6-3 more dangerous opponent – Radek Stepanek, to whom Fish had lost all four previous meetings. The American displayed comprehensive tennis in the first match on Centre Court, served 7 aces and saved only two break points (in succession) while leading 3:2 in the 2nd set – fended them off at the net. “That was the monkey jumping off my back,” said Fish. “He’s been a very tough opponent for me over the years. Not only has he beaten me, he’s beaten me pretty soundly most of the time.” At the same time on Court No. 3 there was an interesting duel between Juan Martin del Potro and Viktor Troicki [32]. Del Potro played with injured left wrist, and it forced him to adjust a new tactics – normally he plays 1 out of 5 backhands with a slice, this time the proportion was reverse. In their five previous matches Del Potro had established such an overwhelming superiority over the Serbian player (last three sets: 6-0 6-0 6-1),  that even playing barely 60-70 % of his normal tennis on Thursday he was able to get a convincing 7-6 2-6 6-1 win. In the 1st set consisted of six breaks of serve, Troicki led *5:3 (30-all). The defending champion Andy Murray held 66 consecutive games on serve between the 1st set against Baghdatis at the Olympics and the 1st set against Jeremy Chardy in Cincinnati (in the meantime the Brit saved break points in 12 games). It’s interesting that usually after such a long streak of service holds, a player loses his serve a few times within a match. It was Murray’s case as well – he was broken by Chardy 4 times in 5 service attempts! The Frenchman lost his serve twice, but notched a very important 6-4 6-4 victory. Actually he experiences the best two weeks of his tennis life. Last week in Toronto made a third round, now at least has advanced to quarterfinals, as a lucky loser # (was two points away from beating Fognini in the qualifying round, took the main draw spot after Isner’s withdrawal). “Sometimes a few games can change matches,” explained Murray. “I had break points in the first set [two at 3:2]. If I had maybe gone up there, maybe I would have started to play better. But when I went behind, he started serving better and he was going for his shots.” Chardy [38], who began the year as No. 103, thanks to his sensational run in Cincinnati will be seeded at the US Open. In the last two weeks he defeated: Tsonga (post-Olympic fatigue), Roddick (back spasm) and Murray (sore left knee) – each of them in straight setters. It’s impressive, isn’t it? Who will be remember in years to come that neither of them was fully fit? Milos Raonic fired 20 aces beating Tomas Berdych 6-4 2-6 6-2 in the last third round match to set up a quarterfinal clash with Stanislas Wawrinka (came to Cincinnati with four consecutive defeats). Raonic also last week entered the last 8 in ‘Masters 1000’ but the difference between these two achievements is significant, in Canada he ousted just one opponent, and a weaker one (Troicki) than three guys he has beaten this week.

# ‘Lucky losers’ to reach ‘Masters 1000’ quarterfinals:
Franco Davin – Hamburg 1990
Alex O’Brien – Cincinnati 1994
Todd Martin – Stuttgart 1997
Franco Squillari – Rome 1999
Sjeng Schalken – Stuttgart 2000
Ivan Ljubicic – Miami 2001
Alberto Martin – Hamburg 2001 & Rome 2005
Thomas Johansson – Toronto 2004 *
Julien Benneteau – Cincinnati 2009
Jeremy Chardy – Cincinnati 2012
* ‘ToJo’ as the only one advanced to semifinals
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Cincinnati – round 1st + 2nd

Here is a stronger field than in Toronto. Federer, Ferrer, Roddick (two-time champion) and other renowned players (Hewitt, Blake, Davydenko, Wawrinka, F.Lopez) back in action. Unfortunately Jo-Wilfried Tsonga withdrew. After a loss to Chardy in Toronto, Tsonga had a weird accident – according to his manager, Tsonga during a walk somehow hurt his knee hitting a fire hydrant and required eight stitches, he should play at the US Open though; also John Isner and Gilles Simon pulled out (back problems) already after the draw had been made. In the last five years the tournament has been won by two players: Federer (thrice) and Murray (twice). Djokovic is the main favorite to grab two Masters titles of the North American summer swing. I can’t imagine that this year would win other player than one out of these three guys.
There’s International Left-Handers Day on August 13. On that day two left-handed Americans met on Grandstand and Jesse Levine [88] outlasted Donald Young 6-4 7-6. For Young [80] it’s 17th defeat in a row which closes him significantly to the infamous record of his compatriot Vincent Spadea. Veterans, Tommy Haas [23] and David Nalbandian [39] played the most entertaining first round matches in Toronto last week as well as this week in Cincinnati. Their meeting at the Western & Southern Open had an astonishing process. Haas got a break point to lead 4:0 in the opening set. Nalbandian since *2:5 saved set points in three different games (six in total) and managed to win 16 straight points since 5:6! He led *2:0 (30/0) in the 2nd set when the longest game of the match occurred – six deuces and Haas broke back after a double fault. It’s pretty amazing that 9 out of 12 games during the 2nd set were concluded after ‘deuce’ games! Nalbandian had a match point at 6:5 when Haas delivered a service winner pointing in Nalbandian’s body. A break in the 8th game of the 3rd set was decisive – Haas finished the match in exactly the same fashion as the previous set – with an ace down the middle – the match lasted 3 hours 22 minutes! The German improves his H2H against the Argentinian to 5-0, but drops to 0-3 against fellow Argentine Juan Martin del Potro, to whom he lost on the following day 5-7 2-6. Also Sam Querrey and Jurgen Melzer played against each other in back-to-back ‘Masters 1000’ events lately # I thought Brian Baker [78] would transform his very good shape from clay and grass-courts onto hardcourts where he grew up, however, he had lost four straight matches on this surface before Cincinnati, where he made a first-round upset eliminating Philipp Kohlschreiber in two tie-breaks. The German was close to win both sets leading 6:5: set point in the 1st set on serve, 30/15 in the 2nd set on return. Baker played a poor match in the second round though, which awarded Bernard Tomic with first advancement to the last 16 of a big American tournament. The other most promising player born in the 90’s, Milos Raonic [19] has notched two valuable wins in his first tournament as a Top 20 player. First he outplayed last week’s finalist Richard Gasquet saving a double set point in the 1st set (7-6 6-3), then battled past Marcos Baghdatis 6-7 6-3 6-4. The Cypriot had a mini-match point at 4:3 in the 3rd set only to be a witness of a booming second serve from Raonic – it was an ace, one out of 22 Raonic hit in that encounter. He saved a break point also in the last game of the match. “I was hoping to play a little bit better last week,” said Raonic, referring to his dubious performance at the Rogers Cup. “Coming here I’m playing better. I still have a long ways to go, but I feel like I’m on the right track.” I have noticed Raonic attacks the net more often recently, he tries to implement a serve-and-volley action on the ad-court with a kick-serve. It’s a good sign that he and his coach Galo Blanco try to figure out a way to improve the game-style – it’s necessary to enter the Top 10.

# First round matches within a week between the same pairs of players:
Toronto: Haas d. Nalbandian 6-2, 6-7(11), 6-3 | Querrey d. Melzer 6-2, 6-3
Cincinnati: Haas d. Nalbandian 6-7(0), 7-6(4), 6-3 | Querrey d. Melzer 4-6, 6-2, 6-4
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Australian Open 1999

It was one of the most open majors in the 90s: deprived of two best players in the world at the time (Pete Sampras, Marcelo Rios) with a defending champion completely out of form and accused of taking forbidden substances (Petr Korda). The second best player of the 90s (Andre Agassi) was still trying to rediscover his form after a terrible 1997 season. Under these circumstances the first Australian champion since 1987 was almost guaranteed: after all the best local players Patrick Rafter and Mark Philippoussis met in the US Open final a few months earlier. Unfortunately for the Aussie fans, they were on a collision course in the last 16. In the end it didn’t matter, neither of them advanced to quarterfinals because both had been outlasted by Thomas Enqvist, who was in the form of his life in January 1999 – the Swede seemed unstoppable, but Yevgeny Kafelnikov along with his coach Larry Stefanki found a cure for Enqvist’s devastating ground-strokes. It was a breakthrough tournament for young players: Tommy Haas and Nicolas Lapentti. Read more
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Toronto – final

(1)Novak Djokovic d. (14)Richard Gasquet   6-3, 6-2            [1:01 h]

Gasquet isn’t able to compete with the most reliable baseliners. After this final the Frenchman has lost the last 34 sets he played against the trio: Djokovic (11 sets), Rafael Nadal (14) & David Ferrer (9). And in all those matches he entered just one tie-break (!), it’s an embarrassing stats from his perspective. Well, he isn’t patient and physically strong enough to propose them a dogfight, he also doesn’t possess the power in two basic shots (serve & forehand) to push them into a deep defence… The first set of the final looked decently until 3:3 (15-all). Gasquet, as a receiver, during a spectacular rally played two reflex-volleys & moon-lob, but Djokovic finished him off with a forehand winner. It was a vital moment, since then the Serb collected 13 straight points, capitalizing the set with an ace on second serve and the match was basically over. Gasquet didn’t show any sign of belief in a three-set victory, lost his serve poorly again in the 1st and 7th game of the 2nd set to ’30’. Djokovic becomes just the third man in the Open era to win the Canadian Open at least three times # The form he showed this week indicates that he is still the best player in the world on hardcourts. All three tournaments he has won this year were held on this surface (it’s his 31st title overall). “It’s a big tournament, one of the biggest we have in tennis. I’m very happy to be in this position,” said Djokovic. “I truly did not expect myself to win this tournament after the emotional losses in the Olympic Games. I really took it hard. I tried to bounce back and recover; I’ve done great, I have to say.” Stats of the final.

Doubles final:
(2)B.Bryan/M.Bryan d. (8)M.Granollers/M.Lopez 6-1, 4-6, [12-10] – 1 m.p.

# Most successful players at the Canadian Open:
6 titles – Ivan Lendl (1980-89)
3 – Andre Agassi (1992, 94, 95), Novak Djokovic (2007, 11, 12)
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