IT’S NADAL BY A NOSE
Spanish star squeaks past Cilic at Rogers Cup
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.”
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.