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Top-seeded Alcaraz and second-seeded Medvedev fall in quarters at NBO Toronto

Carlos Alcaraz Carlos Alcaraz - The Canadian Press

Carlos Alcaraz delivered the highlight-reel shot of the tournament on Friday night.

Tommy Paul made sure it didn't matter.

Alcaraz nearly turned their quarterfinal match at the National Bank Open with a tweener winner that electrified the Sobeys Stadium crowd. He would go on to force a third set but it was Paul who took the decider for a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 victory.

"I like playing anyone that's a big challenge," Paul said.

The result ended the top-ranked Spaniard's 14-match winning streak and left the event without its top two seeds. Australia's Alex de Minaur dispatched second-seeded Russian Daniil Medvedev earlier in the day.

Paul broke Alcaraz in the opening game and kept the pressure on the reigning Wimbledon champion, taking 21 of 23 points at the net. 

Alcaraz appeared to gain momentum in the second set when he returned a lob with a tweener — a ball hit between the legs with his back facing the net — to pull even at 3-3.

He broke Paul at love and then took the next two points on his serve. That's when the American played a strong point that he hoped would prevent Alcaraz from taking over.

"At the end of the day, you just want to set the tone for the third set," Paul said. "And I think it really did that. I mean, he held there anyway and won the second (set).

"But I think digging in there kind of let him know that I was going to be there for the third."

Paul, the No. 12 seed, also beat Alcaraz in three sets when they played at last year's tournament in Montreal. 

"He's really tough on every surface," Alcaraz said. "I mean he's a mix of everything. It makes him really, really tough."

Earlier, de Minaur came through with a tenacious 7-6 (7), 7-5 win to reach his first career Masters 1000 semifinal.

He came back from a 2-5 deficit in the first set and was 1-5 down in the tiebreaker.

"I was very level-headed and at no point in that match did I feel frazzled at all," de Minaur said. "I knew my game plan. I stuck to it."

Medvedev, the 2021 NBO Toronto champion, struggled with his serve at inopportune times on a warm, sunny and breezy afternoon.

The Russian served for the first set at 5-3 but double-faulted on break point. De Minaur followed with a hold to pull even.

In the tiebreaker, Medvedev raised his fist skyward after winning a long rally for a 5-1 advantage. But de Minaur chipped away and saved three set points — including one on a double-fault — before taking an 8-7 lead.

The Australian converted on his first set point when a Medvedev shot sailed long.

In the second set, Medvedev was up 4-3 when he double-faulted on break point. His seventh double-fault overall came on match point.

Medvedev said he has a tendency to really "go for" the second serve.

"There's always a question, like maybe you hit some double-faults but maybe you also hit some good (serves) at important moments," he said.

Medvedev, who has won five ATP Tour titles this year, fell to 22-4 at Masters 1000 events and 31-4 on hard courts this season.

De Minaur will next face Spain's Alejandro Davidovich Fokina in a battle of unseeded players.

Davidovich Fokina pulled away in the second set of the early quarterfinal for a 6-4, 6-2 win over American Mackenzie McDonald.

De Minaur, the world No. 18, has knocked off three seeded players in Medvedev, eighth-seeded Taylor Fritz and No. 11 Cameron Norrie. 

The 37th-ranked Spaniard, meanwhile, has wins over No. 3 Casper Ruud and 13th-seeded Alex Zverev.

"I think we've both shown that we kind of deserve to be here by the opponents we've beaten," de Minaur said. "So it shows that we're both playing some great tennis. We're both playing some confident tennis."

Paul will play the winner of the late match between seventh-seeded Italian Jannik Sinner and Gael Monfils of France.

McDonald was coming off a third-round victory over local favourite Milos Raonic of Thornhill, Ont. Raonic, a wild-card entry, was the last of the five Canadian singles players to be eliminated.

Play continues through Sunday at the US$7.62-million tournament.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 11, 2023.

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