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By Richard Pagliaro | Sunday, August 15, 2021

 
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Playing the biggest match of her career, Camila Giorgi produced one of her best performances conquering Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 7-5 to capture the Montreal title.

Photo credit: Getty

Finals are forced reality checks requiring players stare stress down.

An inspired Camila Giorgi was too busy delivering dynamic tennis to shrink at the sight of strain.

More: Federer Facing Knee Surgery 

Playing the biggest match of her career, Giorgi combined fine footwork and phenomenal shotmaking conquering Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 7-5 to capture the Montreal title.

Converting her second championship point, Giorgi paused and press the back of her hand to her face as if pinching back tears.

"I really think I was very emotional inside," Giorgi said. "Of course, I'm not the one that shows a lot. Of course, it's just amazing. I'm very happy for what I did this week."


The 71st-ranked Giorgi is the first Italian to raise the National Bank Open title trophy and the lowest-ranked tournament champion since an 80th-ranked Serena Williams stopped Samantha Stosur in the 2011 final.

It’s Giorgi’s third career title and her third win over Pliskova in the last three months. In a masterful week, Giorgi  scored straight-sets wins over four seeds—ninth-seeded Elise Mertens, seventh-seeded Petra Kvitova, 15th-seeded Coco Gauff and two-time major finalist Pliskova—as she collected her first WTA title since 2019 Linz solidifying her status as a player no one wants to face at the US Open.

The victory vaults former gymnast Giorgi to 37 spots in the rankings up to No. 34 in the live rankings as she pushes for a US Open seed.

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Explosive off the mark, Giorgi often beat Pliskova to the ball and had the answer in running rallies.

Trailing 2-3, Giorgi showed jolting speed racing for a backhand pass she poked down the line. That spirited sprint sparked a run of five straight games that saw the free-flowing Giorgi take charge.

"To have that chance in the first set to go up a break, I think it was a big mistake from me," Pliskova said. "Other than that, I think I had couple chances. I think she also played, like, super solid all week actually, not playing crazy like she can play sometimes. I think she played really well, serving well important moments. Yeah, just a bit better today."

Tennis is played inside a rectangle and Giorgi has spent recent years boxed in by her reputation as an ultra-talented, but underachieving grip-and-rip power player whose concept of high-percentage tennis was to rip an 80 mph forehand down the line when stretched wide. Add into that uncertain mix Giorgi’s demonstrative dad and coach, the sometime combustible Sergio Giorgi, and you had a player capable of detonating points with a single vicious swing from almost anywhere on court—or imploding in a series of impetuous strikes sometimes in the course of the same match.

Playing without her father casting a stressful shadow across the court, the 29-year-old Giorgi played points with more purpose and patience this week. Afterward, she dedicated the title to her dad crediting their shared belief.

"I been working all my life with my father," Giorgi said. "He's always been with me all the time. We are working hours and hours in the court. Of course, the results should come. I believe it and he believe it, too.

"I think this week was amazing week. Very happy to have this gift. Actually I dedicate to him because I have this for me because he dedicate many hours with me. Of course, this is when you dedicate all your work, I think one day comes beautiful things, you know?"

Facing the big-serving Pliskova, who is second on the WTA in aces, Giorgi shortened up her backswing and drilled deep returns often straight down the middle tying up the Czech and breaking serve four times. The 5’6” Giorgi out-aced the 6’1” Pliskova seven to four, protected second serve with more vigilance and faced just two break points in a masterful one hour, 40-minutes.

Giorgi grew up looking up to Andre Agassi as her tennis hero and her skill straddling the baseline, taking the ball on the rise and ripping her drives into the corner recalled the Hall of Famer. Giorgi is a flat-ball hitter possessing impeccable timing and when she’s firing with conviction she can stand toe-to-toe with premier players and deconstruct them with baseline blasts. A red-hot Giorgi entered the final on a roll winning 15 of her prior 19 matches—including victories over Pliskova on the grass of Eastbourne and the hard courts of the Tokyo Olympics—and exhibiting more patient point construction, a quality that can be lacking when her emotional father, Sergio Giorgi, is court side.




Giorgi cracked forehand returns for a couple break points in the third game. Pliskova pounded down declarative serves to erase break points in a tough hold.

Deadlocked at 30-all, Giorgi won a crackling baseline rally then created an emphatic close at net with a high backhand volley to even the final after four games.

The Wimbledon finalist pressured again in the sixth game. Giorgi showed eye-popping foot speed with a series of sprinting gets lifting a backhand dig down the line on the dead run that helped her hold for 3-all.




Empowered by that stand, Giorgi crunched a sharp-angled crosscourt forehand return to earn a second break point in the seventh game. Straddling the baseline, Giorgi pounded Pliskova’s backhand eliciting an error to break for 4-3 leaving the frustrated Czech to slam her blue Babolat racquet off the court. That outburst came after Pliskova belted a ball off the blue back wall signaling her frustration to the Italian.

Maintaining the depth of her second serves, Giorgi sometimes served right into the body navigating a tense hold to confirm the break for 5-3.

Tennis Express

A frustrated Pliskova hit her third double fault to face double-set point. Pliskova scattered a forehand down the line wide of the sideline as Giorgi grabbed a one-set lead with a clenched fist after 43 minutes.

The problem for Pliskova faced was her normally damaging power game was not deterring Giorgi, who was often answering with angles and winning the majority of the longer exchanges. Giorgi held to start the second set reeling off her fifth consecutive game.

The lithe Italian who had competed with such composure showed a crack in concentration hurling her Yonex racquet toward net. Giorgi shook off that outburst exploiting a Pliskova double fault and netted drive breaking for 3-1.

Spiking tension tightened Giorgi’s right arm as she coughed up successive double faults to give the break right back in the fifth game.


Resetting, Giorgi smacked successive aces sealing a love hold for 5-4 and shifting pressure right back on Pliskova.

"Of course I think she deserves [the title]," Pliskova said. "She played well. I like her. I think she's a good girl.

"I mean, it's not that I'm super happy, I'm going to celebrate for her. At the same time it's, like, I can't really do much about it right now. I still think I had a good week, good matches. Even today I think was quite good match."

Pressuring Pliskova in the 12th game, Giorgi earned two championship points. She smothered a forehand on the first. On the second, Pliskova netted a forehand. Giorgi pressed her hand to her face as if about to cry tears of joy, but didn't erupt into any elaborate, extended celebration.

Even after delivering the best stretch of tennis of her career, winning 16 of her last 20 matches, Giorgi still looked relatively relaxed she sat on her court-side seat and soaked in a career achievement.


 

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