THUNDER BAY -- Pavel Krainik has come to understand the perils of being the top seed in a tennis tournament.
As he showed Sunday, Krainik is also starting to learn how handle the pressure of having the No. 1 in front of his name on a draw sheet.
The 21-year-old from Toronto won the Port Arthur Family Dental Mid-Canada Open men’s singles title with a 7-6 (4), 6-4 victory in the final over Dusty Boyer at the Thunder Bay Community Tennis Centre. The Mid-Canada Open is the biggest tournament of the year on the city's tennis calendar.
“I’ve had many experiences before where I lost in the first rounds being first seed. I was just taking it one match at a time and I think my focus this week was very good,” he said after the match.
“Before I used to have a pretty big issue with (being seeded first)...I learned just to play one point at a time.”
The mentality of not dwelling on past or future points came in handy early for Krainik as he was able to escape many difficult situations.
Boyer, who reached the championship match after a Saturday semifinal victory over reigning titlist Tony Larson, had multiple chances to come away with the first set, constantly attacking Krainik’s serve but was only 1-for-7 in converting his break point opportunities in the set, failing on his final six attempts.
Throughout the match both players had to contend with a strong wind out of the north, forcing them to make adjustments to their shot selection with each changeover.
The match got off to a shaky start for both players, as each one was broken in the first service games and Krainik admitted they weren’t prepared initially for the blustery conditions
Boyer had three opportunities to break again in Krainik’s second service game, jumping out to a 0-40 lead. Krainik was able to save all three and was able to hold.
At 2-2 in the set Boyer once again had multiple break points but could not capitalize from being up 15-40.
Krainik and Boyer settled down and held their next few games with relative ease until Boyer knocked on the door again at 4-4. On break point Boyer had a look at a second serve and stepped in but could not take advantage as Krainik controlled the ensuing long rally and ended up taking the game.
That led to the first set tiebreak. Krainik jumped out to an early lead, going up a mini-break but Boyer held on and eventually got back to even.
Krainik responded by winning the next three points in the breaker, the last two coming off unforced errors from the Boyer forehand. The first found the net and the next one sailed long on set point.
“It was basically even until the very end,” Boyer said. “I missed a couple of shots and he played really tough and got to everything. It was just a couple of points here and there.”
Playing with the lead, Krainik asserted himself quickly in the second. He broke Boyer at love in the first game and promptly consolidated the break with an easy hold.
After facing seven in the first, Krainik did not face a single break point in the second set.
“I hadn’t figured out a good strategy,” Krainik said of his serving in the opening set.
“I started serving to his forehand because he was just waiting for it on the backhand, which I should have done in the first set…He was reading me way too easily.”
As the set went on the deep arsenal possessed by Krainik began to grow evident. He started getting more creative with his shot selection, switching up pace and bounce to disrupt the timing of the big-hitting Boyer.
Boyer, who was unleashing powerful ground strokes trying to put away winners, began to grow increasingly frustrated as misses became more frequent.
“If you play on rhythm he’ll out rally and outhit anybody. If you mix a little sometimes with a high ball, a drop shot, a slice or go to the net he doesn’t know what to expect,” Krainik said.
At a current world ranking of 684, Krainik is the highest player to participate in the Mid-Canada Open. In the past he has been a hitting partner for some of the sport’s top players when they come north of the border, even taking practice sets away from multiple time Grand Slam champion Novak Djokovic and former top-10 player John Isner.
Boyer plays collegiately at the University of Nebraska and was one win shy of qualifying for the NCAA tournament last season. The men's draw had other NCAA players from Big-10 conference schools.
Jamie Grieve, the tennis centre’s head pro, said having a strong field benefits younger local players as they get exposed to seeing how the more accomplished athletes approach their craft.
“Some of our top juniors got to play against these players so I think it’s really key for them to be able not only to see the amount of effort and energy that goes into these guys playing every single point, every single shot and really upping their level,” Grieve said.
Krainik also won the men’s doubles title, teaming up with Edward Nguyen to prevail 6-4, 6-3 over Boyer and Larson.
Elizabeth Hurlburt also completed the sweep, winning the women’s singles title 6-3, 6-3 over Kristine Gascon in the final and she teamed up with local Jordee Matson to claim the doubles’ crown 6-2, 6-0 over Gascon and Lori Ruberto..
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