IT’S NADAL BY A NOSE

Span­ish star squeaks past Cilic at Rogers Cup

Ottawa Citizen - - FRONT PAGE - TERRY KOSHAN Toronto NADAL AD­VANCES tkoshan@post­media.com twit­ter.com/ koshtoron­to­sun

Alexan­der Zverev blew a chance to de­fend his Rogers Cup ti­tle and, af­ter los­ing to Ste­fanos Tsit­si­pas 3-6, 7-6 (13), 6-4 on Fri­day in the quar­ter-fi­nals, blew away any false pre­tences.

In a some­what testy news con­fer­ence with re­porters, minc­ing words was not in Zverev’s in­ter­est.

“Even if I would have won, it wasn’t a good match,” said Zverev, who beat Roger Fed­erer in the Rogers Cup fi­nal in Montreal last sum­mer.

“I didn’t feel the ball at all. I didn’t play well. I was play­ing bad the whole match.

“I don’t think he played that well. I think the match was ab­so­lutely pa­thetic on all lev­els.

“I’m very hon­est with you guys. I al­ways say when the op­po­nent plays bet­ter. To­day was a pa­thetic match ... I don’t even think he played well.”

In a match marked with er­rors on both sides, Zverev won the first set, but lost the next two.

Twice, Tsit­si­pas saved match point in a duel that took two hours, 27 min­utes to com­plete. On match point, Zverev dou­ble­faulted, giv­ing Tsit­si­pas a 6-4 vic­tory in the de­cid­ing set.

Tsit­si­pas sloughed off Zverev’s hon­est view of the pro­ceed­ings. “I’m work­ing with a sports psy­chol­o­gist who is re­ally good,” Tsit­si­pas said. “And he told me some­thing, and I’ve re­mem­bered it for four or five years, and it’s that a good player can be seen in his bad day. And I com­pletely agree with that.

“The level of tennis, in my opinion, was not the high­est. It was all right. I would say I played OK.”

With world No. 1 Rafael Nadal sur­viv­ing an early scare on Fri­day night to beat sixth-seed Marin Cilic 2-6, 6-4, 6-4, the semi­fi­nals for Satur­day are set.

Nadal will face Karen Khachanov on Satur­day night (not be­fore 8 p.m. ET) while Tsit­si­pas will meet Kevin An­der­son ear­lier, but not be­fore 3 p.m. ET. An­der­son ousted Grigor Dim­itrov 6-2, 6-2 on Fri­day.

Nadal has beaten Khachanov in all three pre­vi­ous meet­ings, most re­cently on the clay this sea­son in Monte Carlo.

“He’s play­ing well, he’s dan­ger­ous,” Nadal said. “He hits the ball so hard, too. I need to keep play­ing ag­gres­sive and keep serv­ing well. Then we’ll see. I’m happy about my re­sult, and it’s an op­por­tu­nity to keep go­ing. I’m in semi­fi­nals, man. That’s the most im­por­tant thing.”

Nadal has won 79 tour­na­ments in his il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer, in­clud­ing the Rogers Cup three times. Nadal most re­cently won the event in 2013, when he beat Cana­dian Mi­los Raonic, and also cap­tured the ti­tle in 2005 and 2008.

In their only pre­vi­ous meet­ing, Tsit­si­pas beat An­der­son this sea­son.

“A very tough op­po­nent to face on hard courts,” Tsit­si­pas said of An­der­son. “He has a huge serve. He can be re­ally dan­ger­ous.

“I’m walk­ing in with low ex­pec­ta­tions. I know he’s the favourite again.”

Tsit­si­pas, at 19, is the youngest player since Nadal in 2006 at Monte Carlo to beat three top-10 play­ers in the same tour­na­ment.

“Amaz­ing,” Tsit­si­pas said. “Achiev­ing such things makes me feel nice. I’m very proud of who I am.”

QUICK, BUT NOT EASY

Khachanov ac­knowl­edged he was a “lit­tle bit” sur­prised to dis­pose of Robin Haase in just 55 min­utes in the third quar­ter-fi­nal.

Khachanov, ranked No. 39 in the world, beat No. 38 Haase 6-3, 6-1 to move on.

“It looks easy, but the match was not that easy, let’s say,” Khachanov said. “There were some dif­fi­cult mo­ments, es­pe­cially at the be­gin­ning. Maybe it was not that beau­ti­ful game at the be­gin­ning, but then I found more the rhythm of my game, and I started to play bet­ter.”

It was the first ca­reer meet­ing be­tween the 22-year-old Khachanov, a na­tive of Rus­sia, and the 31-year-old Haase, a na­tive of the Nether­lands. Khachanov re­ally didn’t have much trou­ble, win­ning 91 per cent of his first-serve points and 63 per cent of his sec­ond-serve points.

When play be­gins on Satur­day, it will mark Khachanov’s first Masters 1000 semi­fi­nal.

“I’m happy with this per­for­mance that I could reach my first semi­fi­nal,” Khachanov said. “But I don’t want to be sat­is­fied be­cause there is al­ways some­thing that you can do bet­ter.”

NATHAN DENETTE/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Spa­niard Rafael Nadal lost the first set to Marin Cilic of Croa­tia but took the next two to win his quar­ter-fi­nal match at the Rogers Cup Cana­dian Open men’s tennis cham­pi­onship in Toronto on Fri­day. Nadal will face Karen Khachanov in the semi­fi­nal Satur­day.

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