MONTREAL — Casper Ruud let the opening game of the decisive set slip away Saturday at the National Bank Open. Hubert Hurkacz took advantage — sealing an important break when his return hit the net cord and trickled over — before rolling to victory.
Hurkacz secured a berth in Sunday's final with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 victory at IGA Stadium. He'll face Pablo Carreno Busta for the title after the Spaniard posted a 7-5, 6-7 (7), 6-2 win over Britain's Daniel Evans in the evening semifinal.
The six-foot-five Hurkacz, a No. 8 seed from Poland, wanted to set the tone in the third set after pulling even in the match. However, Ruud jumped out to a 40-0 lead before errors started to creep into his game.
A flubbed overhead smash helped Hurkacz get back to deuce. On break point, the fortunate result at the net gave him a lead he wouldn't relinquish.
"That was a lucky shot in an important moment," Hurkacz said. "Sometimes it happens. But I was trying to be aggressive at that point so I was happy that paid off.
"Obviously I don't mind hitting that cord, but it's probably better to get a winner. That's OK," he added with a smile.
Hurkacz had an 18-8 edge in aces over the Norwegian and completed the win in two hours, two minutes.
"I think I found a good rhythm and I was making the right decisions," he said.
Hurkacz relied on his big serve with five aces in the opening game alone, but he also kept Ruud guessing throughout the match. His serve-and-volley game was working well and he occasionally used an effective floating drop from the backcourt.
He came to the net frequently to put pressure on and it paid off with an early break. Hurkacz then held at love for a quick 3-0 lead.
The near-capacity crowd, eager to see a competitive match between the two seeded players left in the draw, did its best to cheer on Ruud.
The Norwegian responded with four straight points to get on the board and followed with a break of his own.
He added another break at 5-5 — sealing the point with a cracking forehand winner — and took the first set in 42 minutes.
"I didn't expect to be in the 7-5, 1-0 position when I was 3-0 down in the first set," Ruud said. "But he (made) some sloppy mistakes, then he kind of erased those and played some beautiful winners and beautiful games."
Hurkacz, who has needed three sets in each of his singles victories, would go the distance again on a warm, sunny afternoon.
He dictated play more often in the third set and connected on more winners. A sizzling two-handed cross-court backhand sealed another break for a 3-0 edge and he was on his way to a second career appearance in a Masters 1000 final.
Hurkacz beat Italy's Jannik Sinner in last year's Miami final.
Ruud, who dispatched hometown favourite Felix Auger-Aliassime in the quarterfinals, defeated Hurkacz in their lone previous meeting in the fourth round at Roland Garros earlier this year.
The evening semifinal was a rollicking affair between world No. 23 Carreno Busta and the 32nd-ranked Evans.
The ATP Tour veterans treated fans to some great rallies in their first career meeting. Evans got the first set back on serve with a break at 5-5 but Carreno Busta broke right back before serving out.
Evans pressed in the second set — buoyed by his stellar net game — and jumped out to a 3-0 lead. Carreno Busta came back to force a tiebreaker but Evans saved a match ball before converting his second set point.
Carreno Busta rebounded by picking up a break midway through the third set and closing the nearly three-hour match with another. He will make his first career Masters 1000 final appearance.
"It's probably one of the most important matches of my career, fighting for a title, fighting for a Masters 1000 title," he said. "I made two semifinals before, four and five years ago. It's very important to my confidence, to myself, to again be in a final."
Argentina's Guillermo Canas in 2002 was the last unseeded player to win in Toronto. Unseeded Reilly Opelka reached last year's final, but he lost to top-seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev.
In doubles play, third-seeded Neal Skupski of Britain and Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands defeated the German duo of Kevin Krawietz and Andrea Mies 3-6, 6-2, 10-8. And in the final doubles match of the night, Evans and Australia's John Peers defeated Hurkacz and Jan Zielinksi of Poland 7-5, 4-6, 10-4 in the semifinals.
The tournament offers a total purse of US$6.57 million.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 13, 2022.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press