TORONTO: Greek teenager Stefanos Tsitsipas slayed another tennis giant on Saturday, saving a match point as he toppled big-serving Kevin Anderson 6-7 (4-7), 6-4, 7-6 (9-7) in a thriller to set up a Rogers Cup final against top seed Rafa Nadal.
Tsitsipas dropped his racket, smiled and then screamed in front of a frenzied crowd after world number six Anderson sent a backhand long on match point. It was the world number 27’s fourth consecutive win over a top 10 opponent at the tournament.
Tsitsipas dispatched Dominic Thiem, Novak Djokovic and Alexander Zverev in the previous three rounds before battling back to send the Wimbledon runner-up packing on a sun-soaked day in Toronto.
“It never gets easier. You just get better,” Tsitsipas wrote on a camera lens after the match.
Tsitsipas will play his first ATP Masters 1000 final on his 20th birthday on Sunday against world number one Nadal after the Spaniard defeated Karen Khachanov 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 in their rain-delayed evening match.
Fourth seed Anderson was unable to break Tsitsipas’ serve on any of his four opportunities and saw his lone match point opportunity vanish when Tsitsipas smoked a backhand crosscourt winner in the third set tiebreak.
Tsitsipas, who stood well back of the baseline when receiving the South African’s blistering serves, managed the only service break of the game in the third game of the second set with an overhead smash.
With the win, Tsitsipas is projected to climb to at least number 15 when the new rankings are released on Monday.
“I didn’t even have this in my head,” Tsitsipas said of reaching the final. “I thought winning a couple of rounds would be amazing but I’m in the final already. I can’t believe what just happened.”
Despite his recent success Tsitsipas will be a big underdog when he takes on French Open champion Nadal, who will be seeking his 33rd career Masters 1000 title.
Nadal overcame six aces from the big-serving Russian Khachanov to punch his ticket to his fifth final of the year.
“I’m happy with the way that I played and overall I think I have been improving,” said the 32-year-old Nadal. “I am looking forward to play the final. I’m excited about it and it’s an opportunity for me to play a good match against one of the best players.”
Nadal dominated in his only previous meeting with Tsitsipas, a straight sets win in the final of the Barcelona Open on the Spaniard’s preferred surface of clay.
Meanwhile, women’s world number one Simona Halep set up a rematch of the French Open final with Sloane Stephens after cruising to a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Ashleigh Barty at the Rogers Cup in Montreal.
The Romanian, who overhauled reigning US Open champion Stephens at Roland Garros to earn her maiden Grand Slam title, claimed seven of the last eight games in a strong finish to dispatch the 22-year-old Australian.
“I think I played smart tennis today. I pushed her on her backhand, then I could just receive a shorter ball, an easier ball for me to open the court,” Halep said. “I just went all the way also on her forehand, short, cross, long, everything. I played some slices.”
Stephens defeated defending champion Elina Svitolina 6-3, 6-3 in the afternoon session, breaking her five times to reach the final without having dropped a set through the tournament.
The highly-anticipated decider will pit two defence-minded, speedy players against each other, with Halep holding a 6-2 head-to-head record over the American, including winning the last five straight.
“I was pretty close [to winning] the last time so I’m just going to go out there and play hard,” Stephens said. “I have nothing to lose. Making the final here is incredible.”
Published in Dawn, August 13th, 2018