Greek teen Tsitsipas to meet Nadal in Rogers Cup men's final
Stefanos Tsitsipas, of Greece, celebrates his win over Kevin Anderson, of South Africa, during Rogers Cup semifinal tennis tournament action in Toronto on Saturday, August 11, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn)
Gregory Strong, The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, August 11, 2018 10:45AM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, August 12, 2018 8:43AM EDT
TORONTO -- Greek teenager Stefanos Tsitsipas has played his best tennis when he's been on the brink of elimination at the Rogers Cup.
He did it again Saturday and took down yet another top-10 player in the process.
Tsitsipas saved a match point in the deciding tiebreaker before outlasting fourth-seeded Kevin Anderson 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (7) in men's semifinal play at Aviva Centre.
The flashy Athens native delivered a brilliant backhand crosscourt winner to stay alive before firing an ace to secure a third match point. He advanced to his first career Masters 1000 final when an Anderson return sailed long.
"I'm secure and I'm aggressive at the same time," Tsitsipas said. "It feels like I'm never losing it. I'm always there. It doesn't matter what the score is."
Tsitsipas, who turns 20 on Sunday, will play top-ranked Rafael Nadal for the title. After a two-hour rain delay, Nadal beat Karen Khachanov 7-6 (3), 6-4 in the evening semifinal.
Nadal said Tsitsipas has a great overall game and he will need to be aggressive in trying to move him around the court to gain control of the match.
"He's a complex player. He has everything. He's young. Has passion for the game. He has a great forehand, great backhand, good serve. So he's not about one thing. He's about everything," said Nadal.
"These kind of matches you need to play very well to win, and that's what I'm going to try."
With the win over Anderson, the 27th-ranked Tsitsipas became the youngest player to beat four top-10 opponents in one tournament since the ATP World Tour was established in 1990.
His first upset victim was No. 8 Dominic Thiem in the second round. That was followed by wins over No. 10 Novak Djokovic and No. 3 Alexander Zverev, with Tsitsipas saving two match points before dispatching the defending champion.
Not bad for someone ranked 168th in the world at this time last year.
"I'm capable of doing anything on the court and beating any opponent," he said.
Tsitsipas was overmatched on service speed, but heavy topspin shots from the baseline kept Anderson on the move. Tsitsipas often moved deep in the backcourt to give some different looks and displayed a solid volley game when he pushed forward.
The variety seemed to work against the hard-serving South African, who did not convert one of his four-break point opportunities in the two-hour 48-minute match.
Tsitsipas's breakout season has included a run to the final in Barcelona -- where he lost to Nadal in their only previous meeting -- and semifinal appearances in Estoril and Washington. He'll crack the top 15 in the world rankings next week.
Under a blazing afternoon sun, Tsitsipas and Anderson relied on their service games in the opening set on the showcase hardcourt.
Tsitsipas picked up a mini-break in the first-set tiebreaker, but Anderson stormed back to take six straight points for the early lead.
At 1-1 in the second set, Tsitsipas won a long rally at deuce and completed the break when Anderson pushed a return wide. Anderson couldn't convert two break-point chances at 3-4 and Tsitsipas later held at love to force a deciding set.
"I think the biggest thing I was impressed with was definitely his mentality," said the sixth-ranked Anderson. "He stayed pretty solid throughout the match. Today, he definitely deserved to win."
Tsitsipas admitted he was so focused on each point in the third-set tiebreaker that he actually lost track of the score.
He double-faulted on his first match point at 6-4, mistakenly thinking it was 5-3.
"Sometimes when you concentrate too much, you lose the reality of what's happening," he said with a laugh. "It's not the first time. You'll get that from me many more times."
Tsitsipas is the first unseeded Rogers Cup finalist since Nicolas Kiefer lost to Nadal in 2008.
Khachanov, the world No. 38 from Russia, lost his first set of the week to the three-time Rogers Cup champion. The 32-year-old Spaniard wrapped up the match just after midnight local time.
In doubles semifinal play, Raven Klaasen of South Africa and Michael Venus of New Zealand defeated the top-seeded duo of Austria's Oliver Marach and Croatia's Mate Pavic 4-6, 7-6 (5), 10-3.
Second-seeded Henri Kontinen of Finland and Australian John Peers edged Croatia's Nikola Mektic and Austria's Alexander Peya 7-6 (2), 4-6, 12-10 in the other semi.
Play wraps up Sunday at the US$5.94-million tournament on the York University campus.
Canadian doubles great Daniel Nestor was to be inducted into the Canadian Tennis Hall of Fame before the Nadal-Khachanov match, but rain postponed the ceremony.
Nestor will likely be inducted during Canada's Davis Cup tie against the Netherlands at the Ricoh Coliseum next month. It's expected to be the last competitive appearance for the 45-year-old Toronto player.