Fast-forward 14 years, and the Spanish legend is still holding a firm grip.
Nadal made quick work Daniil Medvedev to win the tournament’s 2019 edition Sunday, defeating the Russian 6-3, 6-0 at IGA Stadium in just 70 minutes to claim his fifth Rogers Cup title.
ÈMy best match of the week, without a doubt,” said the 33-year-old. “I did a lot of things well: changing directions, changing rhythms.”
The triumph marked the first time Nadal, the top seed and No. 2-ranked player in the world, has defended a hardcourt championship after winning in Toronto last summer.
The 18-time Grand Slam winner also won on Canadian soil in 2008 in Toronto and 2013 in Montreal, but the 2005 event here remains special because it represented his first hardcourt victory.
So what would Nadal tell the 19-year-old version of himself that lay on his back in celebration after beating the then-35-year-old Agassi?
“Rafa did it very well,” he said with a grin. “Probably better if that Rafa will not hear my advice, no?”
Answering a question in Spanish after the match, Nadal said he’s pulled out of the upcoming tournament in Cincinnati to rest some nagging injuries with the U.S. Open set to begin at the end of the month.
“I said the beginning of the season, during 2018 and beginning of this 2019, there have been a lot of (injury) issues,” he said responding to another query in English. “Some of them you know, some of them you don’t.”
Currently ranked second in the world, Nadal improved to 41-6 in 2019 and raised his third trophy of the season at the US$5.7-million ATP Tour Masters 1000 series event after also winning on clay in Rome and at the French Open.
The 6-3, 6-0 score was the most lopsided men’s final at the event since American star John McEnroe defeated countryman Vitas Gerulaitas 6-0, 6-3 in 1984.
“I knew how it’s going to be,” said the 23-year-old Medvedev, who played Nadal for the first time in his career. “(I) didn’t show my best tennis, but at the same time Rafa was incredible.
“Congrats to him. I need to do better next time.”
Nadal fought off a break point in the first game of Sunday’s opening set before going up 3-1 when Medvedev double faulted. Then leading 5-3, he sealed the set with a great passing forehand down the line.
Medvedev, who hadn’t dropped a set all week, was broken again to open the second. Despite clearly being second-favourite in the crowd’s eyes, fans tried to spur the Russian on down 2-0, but his shaky performance continued and he was broken again to fall even further behind.
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Then trailing 4-0, Medvedev was broken a final time when fired into the net. Nadal mercifully served out from there to clinch the 83rd tournament — and 20th on a hardcourt — of his singles career.
Even though he was in complete control, there was never any chance his foot was coming off the gas.
“Things change very quick,” Nadal said. “Everybody has the potential to cause problems and everybody is dangerous.”
Asked on court after the match he will be back in Montreal when the men return in two years, Nadal responded in French: “I hope.”
Nadal advanced to Sunday’s showdown with Medvedev after France’s Gael Monfils withdrew from their semifinal with an ankle injury.
Seeded eighth at the tournament and ranked No. 9 in the world, Medvedev was the first Russian to play in a men’s Rogers Cup final since Marat Safin won back in 2000 when it was called the du Maurier Open. Andrei Chesnokov was also victorious in 1991, while Yevgeny Kafelnikov lost the 1999 final.
Medvedev topped countryman Karen Khachanov 6-1, 7-6 (6) in the only semi to be played Saturday, and will jump over his fellow Moscow native into eighth in the rankings when the new list is released Monday.
He entered play with a 4-4 record against top-10 opponents in 2019, including a quarterfinal victory in Montreal over world No. 4 Dominic Thiem of Austria. A four-time winner on tour, Sunday marked his fifth final of the year and second in as many weeks.
Fans in Montreal were invited to arrive at IGA Stadium early to watch the women’s title match in Toronto on the television screens placed around the venue’s grounds. But many didn’t make it in time to see Canadian teenager Bianca Andreescu’s victory over Serena Williams after the American star retired trailing 3-1 in the first set due to injury.
The Rogers Cup alternates the men’s and women’s tournaments between Montreal and Toronto every year.
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With the victory Sunday, Nadal stretched his lead atop the all-time Masters 1000 series title list to 35, two more than world No. 1 Novak Djokovic. He also reached his 51st final, moving past No. 3 Roger Federer for top spot.
Medvedev fell to 1-7 all-time against the Big 3, with his only victory coming against Djokovic at Monte Carlo back in April. Djokovic and Federer both skipped this year’s event in Montreal, but are scheduled to participate in Cincinnati.
Spain’s Marcel Granollers and Argentina’s Horacio Zeballos, playing together for the first time, defeated Robin Haase and Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands 7-5, 7-5 to claim the men’s doubles final Sunday.
Even with all tickets being refunded for Saturday’s night session after Monfils bowed out _ and a draw minus Djokovic and Federer _ this year’s event in Montreal attracted more than 223,000 spectators to eclipse the previous high of 216,000 set in 1997.
Tournament director Eugene Lapierre added that while a roof on IGA Stadium is a long-term goal, there are other areas where the fan and player experience can improve.
“The way we are doing things with our team is to look at the details,” Lapierre said. “People love the site. All week they’ve been telling me how beautiful it was.
“But we do see the small details that are wrong, and we take notes, and we are going to improve them for next year.”
And with any luck, Nadal will be back to see them in 2021.
© 2019 The Canadian Press