Brayden Schnur’s best week ever got even better on Saturday at the New York Open. Having never won an ATP Tour main draw match before this week, the Canadian qualifier saved five set points in the opening set against sixth seed Sam Querrey and reached the final with a 7-6(7), 4-6, 6-3 victory over the American.
Schnur, the final alternate into the qualifying draw, saved two match points in his second-round win over third seed Steve Johnson and won the longest match of the tournament in his quarter-final against Paolo Lorenzi (2 hr, 39 min). Currently at a career-high No. 154 in the ATP Rankings, he'll crack the Top 100 on Monday if he takes the title.
The Canadian erased four set points on his serve at 4-5 in the first set and another at 5-6. Schnur couldn’t convert on set point opportunities in the tie-break at 6/5 and 7/6, but a pair of forehand errors from Querrey at 7/7 gave him the early advantage.
The qualifier had a break point opportunity to lead 4-0 in the second set, but the occasion appeared to overwhelm him and his shots began landing shorter. Querrey took advantage to level the match, but Schnur regrouped with an early break to lead 2-0 in the deciding set. The slight advantage was all he needed. Schnur converted on his first match point with a strong serve and closed the contest after one hour and 54 minutes.
Schnur will take on the winner of the all-American clash between top seed John Isner and Reilly Opelka. He has not faced either player before.
More than 20 months after reaching his 28th tour-level final at Roland Garros in 2017, Stan Wawrinka defeated Kei Nishikori 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 at the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament to move into his 29th championship match on Saturday.
“This is a big relief for me,” said Wawrinka. “It’s my first final since the [knee] surgery, so to show I can still play at this level against the top players is very important for me.”
The 33-year-old, who required two left knee surgeries in August 2017, landed 35 winners, including eight aces, to triumph after two hours and 13 minutes. Wawrinka will be aiming to capture his second title in Rotterdam after beating Milos Raonic and Tomas Berdych in back-to-back matches to lift the trophy in 2015.
“When you come back from a surgery like that, you need to be patient with yourself. You look to start to win matches and gain confidence,” said Wawrinka. “I think my level is there physically and tennis-wise. If I stay focused and do the right things, I think I’m going to get back to a good place.”
The three-time Grand Slam champion will meet Gael Monfils in Sunday's final. Wawrinka leads Monfils 3-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, but the pair have met just once in the past eight years, at 2017 Roland Garros, with the Swiss triumphing in straight sets.
"We practise together a lot and we’re really close friends," said Wawrinka. "We’ve said it would be nice to play against each other in a final, so tomorrow will be special for both of us."
Wawrinka raced into a 2-0 lead at the Ahoy Rotterdam, claiming the opening break of the match with a crafty short return and a well-struck forehand passing shot down the line. The Swiss soon doubled his advantage, dominating rallies with his forehand before moving up the court to rush his opponent into errors. Despite surrendering one break of serve, Wawrinka broke for a third time with his ninth winner, an angled crosscourt backhand, to take the opening set after 37 minutes.
Nishikori responded emphatically in the second set, moving into a 4-0 lead of his own after finding success attacking Wawrinka's backhand in crucial moments. Wawrinka held firm, recovering one of the two breaks after finding further success bringing Nishikori to the net off his return. But the Japanese No. 1 soon levelled the match, holding serve to love at 5-4 with a driven cross-court backhand winner.
In a tense third set, both men held serve with relative ease until Nishikori served to stay in the match at 4-5. After ripping a forehand winner to complete an impressive service hold in the previous game, Wawrinka continued to dictate points with his forehand. From 30/30, the Swiss fired his 34th and 35th winners, both on his forehand side, to book his place in the championship match.
Nishikori was bidding to reach his second ATP Tour final of the season, following his title run at the Brisbane International (d. Medvedev) last month. The Japanese No. 1 overcame Medvedev in three sets to snap a nine-match losing streak in tour-level championship matches.
Did You Know?
This was only the third tour-level semi-final Wawrinka has contested since reaching the 2017 Roland Garros final (l. to Nadal). The Swiss reached two semi-finals in 2018, falling to Mirza Basic in Sofia and Martin Klizan in St. Petersburg.
Fourth seed Diego Schwartzman proved on Saturday at the Argentina Open that he can never be counted out. Down 1-4 in the deciding set of his semi-final against Dominic Thiem, the Argentine thrilled the home crowd by saving a match point to hand the top seed his first loss in Buenos Aires and prevail 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(5).
Playing with the confidence of a man who held an 11-0 record in Buenos Aires, Thiem stepped in the court to control baseline rallies and raced into a 6-2, 4-2 lead. But with the crowd urging him on, Schwartzman’s foot speed extended the points and goaded Thiem into unforced errors. The Argentine went on an impressive four-game run and leveled the match.
The deciding set appeared it might end identically to the second set. Thiem jumped to a 4-2 advantage, but suddenly mistimed several forehands and gave Schwartzman the chance to serve for the match at 5-4. Determined not to let history repeat itself, Thiem earned a break point with a crafty forehand winner and leveled the set when Schwartzman pushed a forehand wide.
Having served for the match, Schwartzman found himself down match point serving to stay in it at 5-6, 30/40. The Argentine erased it with a forehand winner and moved the contest to a final-set tie-break. A forehand error from Them at 5/6 brought Schwartzman to his knees and the crowd to their feet as the fourth seed advanced after two hours and 31 minutes.
Schwartzman improves his FedEx ATP Head2Head against Thiem to 2-3 and has won their past two matches. He's through to his first final since lifting the title 12 months ago in Rio de Janeiro (d. Verdasco)
He'll play third seed Marco Cecchinato for the title. The Italian advanced to his third ATP Tour final by defeating Guido Pella 6-4, 6-2.
The third-seeded Italian, who captured clay-court titles in Budapest and Umag last year, won 71 per cent of service points (37/52) and did not face a break point en route to victory after 69 minutes. Cecchinato improves to 5-4 this season after beating Pella for the second time in as many FedEx ATP Head2Head meetings. Last week, Pella reached his fourth tour-level championship match at the inaugural Cordoba Open (l. to Londero).
Did You Know?
Cecchinato entered this year's Argentina Open with a 0-3 tournament record.