Tournament of the Year: Montréal Masters

by: Richard Pagliaro November 22, 2013

AP Photo, FosterMartin

With the 2013 tennis season in the past, it's time to dole out our annual awards. Look for the winners—for better or worse—throughout this week on (To see what's been unveiled thus far, click here.)

The Montréal Masters was a tournament of milestones and a break-out party for Canadian tennis.

Both semifinals—an historic all-Canadian clash between Milos Raonic and Vasek Pospisil during the day and a combustible showdown between Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic at night—offered high-energy drama escalating into third-set tie breakers.

In doubles, Wimbledon champion Andy Murray advanced to the final, and 40-year-old Torontonian Daniel Nestor became the first man in ATP history to compete at the same tournament 25 years in a row. The doubles specialist commemorated the occasion by partnering Robert Lindstedt to beat the top-ranked Bryan brothers before bowing to the British duo of Murray and Colin Fleming.

World No. 1 Djokovic danced with the tournament’s tennis ball mascot after his opening win over Florian Mayer, but couldn’t dodge the ball Nadal drilled in his direction in an intense semifinal that was their first hard-court meeting since the 2012 Australian Open final.

At 2-2 in the decider, Nadal heightened the tension by drilling a backhand that hit Djokovic in the face. The Roland Garros champion quickly raised his hand in apology, but a stunned Djokovic turned his back. Amping up the pace of his forehand, Rafa rolled through the tiebreaker to complete a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (2) semifinal victory.

“The only chance to win against Novak, the only tactic is play very well,” Nadal said afterward. “To play very well, I have to play aggressive. If not, I cannot play very well in this kind of surface. And I did. I played a very high level, I think. I played with the right decision in the important moments.”

The pair made peace in the post-match handshake. It was Nadal's first hard-court win over Djokovic since the 2010 World Tour Finals.

"I don't think he meant to go for my head. We sorted it out in the end," Djokovic said.

Earlier that day, Raonic needed to clear his head before it was too late. Immobilized by nerves during some points, the 22-year-old was inspired on match point. Raonic stabbed a defensive backhand to prolong the point and ripped a running forehand to complete a tense, 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (4) triumph over Davis Cup teammate Pospisil in the first all-Canadian Masters semifinal.

Bouncing off the blue court with exuberance, Raonic landed as the first Canadian to reach the Rogers Cup final since 1958 in a result that reverberated beyond Montréal: He became the first Canadian man to crack the Top 10 by virtue of reaching his first Masters final.

“To be able to do it here in Montréal is pretty amazing,” Raonic said.

In the end, the tournament belonged to Nadal, who quieted an enthusiastic crowd by defusing the explosive Raonic, 6-2, 6-2, in just 67 minutes to capture his 25th career Masters championship, his third Rogers Cup crown, and his first title in Montréal since he beat Andre Agassi in the 2005 final.

“Playing against a local player was special. I like that feeling,” Nadal said. “That's good for our sport, these kind of atmospheres.”

Further reading:

Richard Pagliaro's Racquet Reaction to Raonic's win over Pospisil.
Steve Tignor's Racquet Reaction to Nadal's win over Djokovic.

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