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De Minaur, Sinner to battle in Toronto final at National Bank Open

Alex De Minaur Alex De Minaur - The Canadian Press

TORONTO — It took Alex de Minaur a few days to find his form at the National Bank Open after a packed schedule created some challenges.

Now that he's settled into a groove, the wins just keep on coming.

De Minaur was in full control of a 6-1, 6-3 semifinal victory over Alejandro Davidovich Fokina on Saturday to earn a berth in his first career Masters 1000 final.

"I just told myself that no matter what, I was going to compete every point," de Minaur said. "Stay positive and not get frustrated by how the match may go, and I'm just going to give myself the best chance of staying tough mentally.

"And I think that's probably what got me the win today."

The 18th-ranked Australian will play seventh-seeded Italian Jannik Sinner in Sunday's final. Sinner beat 12th-seeded American Tommy Paul 6-4, 6-4 in the other semifinal.

"I just tried to stay aggressive and take the tough challenges in important moments," Sinner said. "(I) tried to play the right way."

De Minaur arrived in Toronto in the wee hours Monday after reaching the final in Los Cabos, Mexico. It was a quick turnaround with an opening doubles match that day ahead of his singles opener on Tuesday.

"The first couple rounds, I didn't play my best tennis," de Minaur said. "Just things weren't clicking. I couldn't really feel the ball in the strings and I just told myself to keep going at it."

He managed to beat 11th-seeded Cameron Norrie in the first round and bested Canadian wild-card entry Gabriel Diallo in the second round, dropping nine games in each straight-sets win.

Eighth-seeded Taylor Fritz pushed de Minaur to three sets and the Australian reached the semis by upsetting second-seeded Daniil Medvedev.

"It's always a huge boost of confidence when you're able to go on these deep runs," de Minaur said. "But I get to play a final tomorrow and the job is not done. Keep on going."

De Minaur broke Davidovich Fokina's serve on his first opportunity. He used his speed and return skills to keep the pressure on the Spaniard throughout the 77-minute match.

Davidovich Fokina made 22 unforced errors to just four for his opponent on a sunny but windy afternoon.

"The conditions were very, very tough for both of us, so it didn't allow for ideal tennis (or) perfect tennis," de Minaur said.

In the evening, Sinner and Paul exchanged service breaks to open their match. Sinner used his strong pace from the baseline to prevent Paul from dictating the rallies.

The American received treatment on his lower back/right hip area early in the second set and was broken in his next service game.

At 2-4, Paul had three break point chances but couldn't take advantage. Sinner saved one by outlasting Paul in a 46-shot rally that brought the near-capacity crowd to its feet.

Sinner, who reached the Miami final twice but has yet to win a Masters 1000 title, has won all four of his previous meetings against de Minaur. Three of the victories came on hard courts while the most recent win — last year in Madrid — came on clay.

Davidovich Fokina, meanwhile, upset third-seeded Casper Ruud and 13th-seeded Alex Zverev en route to the semifinal. The 37th-ranked player showed flashes of his previous form against de Minaur but mistakes snuffed out any rhythm.

"I was late off everything," Davidovich Fokina said. "I didn't move my legs today. I (was) not giving up but it was very weird. Like a very bad day in the office."

De Minaur did give up a break late in the second set but broke right back to improve to 32-16 on the season. He'll rise at least five spots in next week's rankings and would reach a career-high No. 11 with a title.

Sinner, currently ranked a career-high eighth, will rise to No. 6 if victorious.

In doubles play, El Salvador's Marcelo Arevalo and Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands posted a 6-3, 3-6, 10-5 win over the seventh-seeded duo of Spain's Marcel Granollers and Argentina's Horacio Zeballos.

They'll play the third-seeded team of American Rajeev Ram and Britain's Joe Salisbury in Sunday's final. Ram and Salisbury advanced with a 6-4, 6-4 win over sixth-seeded Kevin Krawietz and Tim Puetz of Germany.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 12, 2023.

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