World No.1 Rafael Nadal outdid Karen Khachanov in the semifinals of the Rogers Cup on Saturday night, 7-6 (3), 6-4, to set up a blockbuster final against Stefanos Tsitsipas at the Masters 1000 event.
Less than 24 hours earlier, the No. 1-seeded Nadal was pushed to the absolute limits by the No. 6 seed, Marin Cilic, rallying from a set down to make it past the 2014 US Open champion, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
And against Khachanov—who beat No. 12 seed Pablo Carreno Busta and No. 8 seed John Isner en route to his first Masters 1000 semifinal—Nadal’s fire was still burning strong, as he snuck out the first set in a tie-break and broke one more time in the second set for the one-hour, 49-minute victory.
“It feels great,” Nadal said afterwards. “These opportunities to be playing on a stadium like this in front of an amazing crowd aren’t forever, so I just try to enjoy every single moment and play with all I have.
“Today was an important victory—to be in the final here in Toronto means a lot to me.”
Nadal finished the match with 18 winners to 17 unforced errors, while Khachanov’s game went somewhat awry against the World No. 1—his 16 winners were outweighed by 25 unforced errors.
WATCH —Recapping Stefanos Tsitsipas's incredible run to the final in Toronto:
The Spaniard is now 4-0 lifetime against the Russian (and 9-0 in sets).
With the win, Nadal moved through to his fourth Rogers Cup final—having won all three of his previous finals at this event in 2005 (beating Andre Agassi), 2008 (beating Nicolas Kiefer) and 2013 (beating Milos Raonic). It’ll also be his 49th career Masters 1000 final (he’s 32-16 in the first 48 such finals).
The Spaniard will also be going for a milestone 80th career ATP World Tour title.
Though his run came to an end, there are a lot of positives for the No. 38-ranked Khachanov. Not only did he reach his first Masters 1000 semifinal—he’d never even been to a Masters 1000 quarterfinal before this—but he’s projected to rise to No. 26 on Monday (bettering his career-high of No. 29).
Awaiting Nadal in the final will be another unseeded up-and-comer, Tsitsipas, who’s actually taken out four straight Top 10 players to reach his first Masters 1000 final—No. 8 Dominic Thiem, No. 10 Novak Djokovic, No. 3 Alexander Zverev and, in Saturday’s first semifinal match, No. 6 Kevin Anderson.
Nadal routed Tsitsipas in the pair’s only previous meeting in the final of Barcelona this year, 6-2 6-1, but things were different then - that was clay, Nadal’s favorite surface, and Tsitsipas was just coming up (he was No. 63 then—he’s now No. 27 and guaranteed to break the Top 15 win or lose on Sunday).
Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev headline the Rogers Cup in Toronto. Watch live coverage from four courts on Tennis Channel Plus beginning Monday, August 6th at 11:00 A.M.