From Lendl To Nadal: Classic Moments In Canada
Celebrating 30 years of ATP Masters 1000 tournaments, ATPTour.com looks back on memorable moments from Canada.
Normally at this time of season, the ATP Tour heads to Canada for the sixth ATP Masters 1000 event of the year. This year the tournament was cancelled due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, but fans could still celebrate the Rogers Cup.
Established in 1881, the tournament is the only tour-level event that splits its hosting duties between two cities. Last year, it was held in Montreal. This season, it was to be held in Toronto.
ATPTour.com looks back on memorable moments from Canada.
The Lendl Years
Between 1980 and 1989, Ivan Lendl captured a record six titles at this tournament. After a semi-final loss to Bjorn Borg on his tournament debut in 1979, the four-time year-end World No. 1 won 22 of his next 23 matches at the event to lift three trophies from four consecutive finals.
Four years after his victory against Anders Jarryd in the 1983 final, Lendl returned to the winners’ circle in Montreal to collect his first of three straight crowns. The 6’2” right-hander won 15 consecutive matches at the tournament from 1987 to 1989, including wins against Jimmy Connors, Stefan Edberg, Andre Agassi and John McEnroe to become a six-time champion in Canada.
Lendl reached his ninth and final championship match at the event in 1992, falling in three sets to Agassi. The former World No. 1 ended his career with a 57-9 tournament record.
Chang Becomes Youngest Champion
One year on from his famous run to the 1989 Roland Garros trophy, Michael Chang entered the record books in Toronto as the youngest winner in tournament history. Aged 18 years and five months, the American raced through his opening two matches to book a quarter-final clash against Agassi.
Chang recovered from a set down to beat Agassi and Pete Sampras in consecutive matches — winning both battles 7-5 in the third set — and reach the championship match against Jay Berger. The first-time Masters 1000 finalist also trailed Berger by a set, before recovering to claim the title in a final-set tie-break.
The Agassi-Sampras Final
In perhaps the most memorable year of their ATP Head2Head rivalry, Agassi and Sampras contested five finals in 1995, including the Montreal championship match. Agassi entered the contest as the defending champion, seeking his third win of the year against his great rival. The Las Vegas native had a much smoother road to the final, only losing two games against Mats Wilander in the semi-finals, while Sampras needed a final-set tie-break against Thomas Enqvist.
In a meeting between the top two players in the FedEx ATP Rankings, World No. 1 Agassi recovered from a set down and saved six of seven break points to overcome Sampras in three sets and complete his third title run in Canada. The champion stood out behind his second serve, winning 65 per cent of those points compared to 50 per cent for his opponent. Sampras quickly gained his revenge, beating Agassi in the US Open final en route to finishing the year as World No. 1 for the third straight season.
Nadal Makes It Five
In just his second tournament appearance, Nadal claimed his maiden Canada trophy in 2005 with a hard-fought victory against Agassi in the 2005 final. Since then, the Spaniard has enjoyed regular success in both Montreal and Toronto.
The 19-time Grand Slam champion, who also claimed further trophies in 2008 and 2013, ended a five-year title drought in Canada in 2018. Nadal overcame Stan Wawrinka and Marin Cilic, before notching straight-sets wins against Karen Khachanov and Stefanos Tsitsipas to become only the third player, alongside Lendl and Novak Djokovic, to win the event on four occasions in the Open Era.
Twelve months later, Nadal moved clear of Djokovic by winning consecutive titles in Canada for the first time. The World No. 2 was forced to recover from a set down against Fabio Fognini in the quarter-finals, before producing a dominant final performance to defeat Daniil Medvedev. The victory extended Nadal’s lead at the top of the Masters 1000 titles leaderboard. Nadal owns a record 35 trophies at the level, one clear of Djokovic’s mark of 34 crowns.
“Every single place has a different atmosphere, different feeling. Every place is special by itself. But honestly here, I think they are very passionate about the sport. They are very passionate about tennis,” said Nadal. “I always felt when I have been playing here, [there is] always an unbelievable atmosphere out here, full crowd. That's so important for our sport and for me personally.”
Federer’s Toronto Run
Roger Federer’s two tournament victories in Canada came in back-to-back Toronto appearances in 2004 and 2006. In 2004, the Swiss dropped just one set en route to his maiden final in Canada to book a meeting with defending champion Andy Roddick. The pair had met the previous year in the Montreal semi-finals, with Roddick beating Federer in a final-set tie-break. But Federer, who had recently beaten Roddick to win his second Wimbledon crown, gained revenge with a straight-sets victory against the American.
Two years later, Federer once again took the title in Toronto. The World No. 1 was forced to a deciding set in his final four matches, but overcame Dmitry Tursunov, Xavier Malisse, Fernando Gonzalez and Richard Gasquet to capture his second Toronto crown. “The victories more came through fighting, through trying to make every shot, trying not to play fancy anymore, because I was obviously in a struggle,” said Federer.
The 20-time Grand Slam champion has since reached four additional finals at the Masters 1000 tournament, but has finished as runner-up on each occasion.
Djokovic entered the 2007 Coupe Rogers seeking his second Masters 1000 trophy, following his title run in Miami earlier in the year. After wins against Nicolas Kiefer and David Nalbandian, Djokovic successfully navigated the toughest possible route to the trophy.
The Serbian beat World No. 3 Roddick and World No. 2 Rafael Nadal to reach the final, where he outlasted World No. 1 Federer in a final-set tie-break to claim the title. Roddick, Nadal and Federer had combined to win each of the past four editions of the event.
“I won a [Masters 1000] in Miami, but here I beat the No. 3 in the quarter-finals, the No. 2 in the semi-finals and, in the final, I beat the No. 1. I couldn’t ask for more,” said Djokovic. “I played some impressive tennis all week. This is a dream come true.”
Tsonga Ends Big Four Run
After almost 18 months without an ATP Tour title, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga stunned the field in 2014 to capture the Toronto title. The energetic Frenchman, who suffered a left knee injury in 2013, beat four consecutive Top 10 players to claim the trophy.
Tsonga advanced to the championship match with wins against three-time titlist Djokovic, two-time winner Andy Murray and Grigor Dimitrov. In the final, the 2008 Australian Open runner-up did not face a break point, beating Federer in straight sets.
Tsonga’s title run ended a decade of Big Four dominance at the event. Between 2004 and 2013, Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray combined to win each of the 10 editions of the event.
“I played well all week. I beat many good guys,” said Tsonga. “It's a big achievement because I worked really hard to come back from my knee injury last year.”
Murray Ends Djokovic Streaks
Five years on from his most recent title run in Canada, Andy Murray added a third tournament victory to his collection in 2015. The Brit advanced to his third final in Canada without dropping a set and faced an in-form Djokovic for the trophy.
Djokovic entered the contest on a 30-match win streak at the Masters 1000-level and he had beaten Murray in the pair’s eight most recent encounters. But Murray ended both streaks in dramatic fashion, battling past Djokovic in exactly three hours to equal Sampras’ haul of 11 Masters 1000 crowns.
Zverev’s Remarkable Recovery
Alexander Zverev’s run at the 2017 Coupe Rogers was almost stopped at the first hurdle by Richard Gasquet. Zverev survived three match points against the Frenchman, including one in a 49-shot rally, to extend his stay in Montreal. The German raised his level from there to claim eight consecutive sets and the trophy.
Zverev defeated Nick Kyrgios, Kevin Anderson and surprise semi-finalist Denis Shapovalov to extend his winning streak to nine matches and book a final clash with two-time titlist Federer. Zverev held his nerve in the championship match, saving each of the three break points he faced to hand Federer his only loss in eight finals that year.
“Winning two Masters 1000 titles in the same year is something amazing," said Zverev. "I played well winning Washington and here. It's something amazing, back-to-back weeks. I feel great. I feel like I'm playing some of the best tennis of my life.”