TORONTO: Novak Djokovic paused after accepting the Rogers Cup trophy for the fourth time, scanned the stands Sunday at York University’s Aviva Centre and asked everyone in the crowd to hug the person beside them.
A small chuckle circulated the capacity crowd and then Djokovic said he would lead by example, turning to public announcer Ken Crosina and wrapping his arms around the emcee. Fans laughed and followed suit.
“It was a really wonderful moment,” Djokovic said. “I did feel that it was just the right moment for me to ask politely the crowd to do that, because in the end of the day, we are all here for the same thing. We are all here to connect through tennis, through passion for the sport. “It’s nice that we got to sense and feel that kind of energy around the stadium.”
The top-ranked Serb beat third-seeded Kei Nishikori of Japan 6-3, 7-5 after a short rain delay. Djokovic also won the hardcourt event that rotates between Toronto and Montreal 2007, 2011 and 2012. Ivan Lendl holds the tournament record with six titles.
The 29-year-old Djokovic has seven victories this year and 66 overall, a record 30 in ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events such as the Canadian stop. He has 12 Grand Slam titles, winning this year in Australia and France.
“After Grand Slams, these are the biggest events we have in sport of tennis,” Djokovic said. “Naturally, I’m going to be very disciplined, committed, and focused to do well.” Djokovic has won his last nine matches against Nishikori and leads the series 10-2.
“I had too many unforced errors especially during important points,” Nishikori said. “He was returning really well today, I think. I was hitting some good first serves, but he was making returns in deep.” In April in their previous match, Djokovic won the Key Biscayne final. Nishikori won his fourth straight Memphis title in February for his 11th ATP Tour victory. In the doubles final, Croatia’s Ivan Dodig and Brazil’s Marcelo Melo topped Britain’s Jamie Murray and Brazil’s Bruno Soares 6-4, 6-4.
Meanwhile, Simona Halep beat a mistake-prone Madison Keys 7-6 (7/2), 6-3 on Sunday to win the WTA Montreal hardcourt tournament and claim her 14th career singles crown. World number five Halep, of Romania, has now won 23 of her last 26 matches, a stretch that has included lifting titles in Madrid, Bucharest and now Montreal.
“It was not my best tennis because I couldn’t play my best tennis,” Halep said. “I cannot hit stronger than her because she’s very strong. “I tried just to keep the ball away from her and to make her run.
“I think I did it pretty well, and she missed shots. It was really tough for me to hit winners today.” Halep had some unfinished business to take care of at this tournament after reaching the final for the second straight year. Halep was unable to close the deal last year when she became ill in the third set, handing the title to unseeded Belinda Bencic.
Sunday’s win wasn’t pretty as she hit just four winners against Keys, an American playing in her first career hardcourt tournament final. It was a match Keys would no doubt like to quickly forget as she finished with 45 unforced errors and had her serve broken five times, including four times in the opening set.
Her best previous hardcourt performance was a semi-final run at the 2015 Australian Open. She also reached the semis at Sydney in 2014 and Osaka in 2013. “I’m obviously not going to say it’s a bad week just because I lost one match. I think I played really a pretty good tournament,” Keys said. “I wish today went a little bit differently. Sometimes it happens. Just take the positives from that and move on.”
Halep is the first player to reach back-to-back finals in the event since Jennifer Capriati did it in 2001 and 2002. Halep won a sloppy first set in 43 minutes despite hitting just one winner.
The Romanian took the set on the second of five potential set points in the tiebreaker when Keys hit a backhand wide. She then claimed the title on another Keys error as the American blasted a forehand into the net on championship point. – Agencies