MONTREAL — Pablo Carreno Busta defied the odds all week at the National Bank Open. The unseeded Spaniard didn't let up in Sunday's final.
He overcame a slow start for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 victory over eighth-seeded Hubert Hurkacz of Poland to win a Masters 1000 title for the first time in his career.
"It's an amazing feeling," he said. "I worked very, very hard (throughout) my career to finally be here."
Steady shotmaking and overall consistency were the difference in a final that turned early in the second set. A Hurkacz double-fault and three missed forehands gave Carreno Busta a 2-0 lead and momentum ahead of the decisive set.
He earned another early break in the third that forced Hurkacz to press more often. The Polish player had an 18-4 edge in aces but Carreno Busta attacked his second serve and broke him again to finish the match in one hour 45 minutes.
"It's the little things that make a big difference," Hurkacz said. "If you don't make your first serves and with Pablo making some good returns, then you're under a lot of pressure."
Carreno Busta became the first unseeded player to win this tournament since Argentina's Guillermo Canas in 2002.
It was the seventh ATP Tour title of his career.
"It's not the first one, but it's for sure the most important," Carreno Busta said. "It's a Masters 1000. It's something great to win these kind of titles."
The sellout crowd of 11,715 at IGA Stadium was also treated to one of the standout rallies of the tournament. The third-set point went Carreno Busta's way and Hurkacz never recovered.
After a series of groundstrokes, Carreno Busta came to the net and hit a deep shot that an outstretched Hurkacz lobbed across the court to the back corner.
The Spaniard managed to chase it down and skied a desperation floater that landed just inside the line. Hurkacz couldn't put away an overhead shot and Carreno Busta found himself back in the rally.
Carreno Busta soon returned to the net for a drop that Hurkacz lunged for on the backhand side. Carreno Busta cut off the return with a jumping backhand putaway that electrified the crowd.
The Spaniard extended his arms outward as he took in the standing ovation. Hurkacz chucked his racket on the hard court in frustration.
"I think it was an incredible point," Carreno Busta said. "It's just one point, but it was very, very good for the confidence."
Hurkacz, who won his first Masters 1000 title last year in Miami, fell to 5-1 in ATP Tour finals. The 23rd-ranked Carreno Busta improved to 7-5 in final appearances.
The Spaniard upset No. 11 Matteo Berrettini in the first round and took out another Italian in No. 7 Jannik Sinner in the third round. Carreno Busta didn't lose a set until he was pushed the distance by Britain's Daniel Evans in the semifinals.
"My game during the week was very, very high," Carreno Busta said. "I played really (well) from the first match against Berrettini until the last one against Hubie."
Hurkacz had his power game working in the early going on a glorious midsummer afternoon.
He led all players in aces this week and his serve was in form again as he controlled the first set in a tidy 31 minutes. But Carreno Busta upped his pace and seemed to figure out Hurkacz's game.
Carreno Busta couldn't match Hurkacz's service power — few players can — but quality placement and nice touch on his volleys proved effective.
Carreno Busta earned US$915,295 of the $6.57-million overall purse. Hurkacz picked up $499,830 as a finalist.
In the doubles final, the third-seeded duo of Wesley Koolhof of the Netherlands and Neal Skupski of Britain defeated Evans and John Peers of Australia 6-2, 4-6, 10-6.
Organizers said a total of 237,733 spectators took in the action through the week, a men's tournament record at this venue. The previous high of 223,023 was set in 2019, the last time this event was held at full capacity.
Unseeded American Reilly Opelka reached last year's final in Toronto before losing to top-ranked Daniil Medvedev of Russia.
The men's tournament will be played next year in Toronto and the women's WTA Tour event will return to Montreal.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 14, 2022.
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Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press