Canada Flashback: Rafael Nadal wins 80th ATP title over Stefanos Tsitsipas

Rafael Nadal wins 80th ATP title over Stefanos Tsitsipas

Competing in Toronto for the first time since 2010, Rafael Nadal claimed his fourth Canada Open title in 2018 after a 6-2, 7-6 win over Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Greek beat four top-10 players to reach the title shot, became the youngest Masters 1000 finalist since Novak Djokovic in Miami 2007 and faced Rafa on his 20th birthday.

Nadal wasn’t ready to give Stefanos a birthday present. He scored his 40th win from 43 games that year. Also, Nadal became the fourth player in the Open era with 80 ATP titles after Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and Roger Federer!

Tsitsipas saved a match point against Alexander Zverev and Kevin Anderson to face off against Rafael Nadal, who was second in the final after Barcelona earlier this year. The Greek pulled the break back in the second set and earned a set point in the 12th game.

Rafa lost some ground in those moments but denied it and sealed the deal in the tiebreak. The Spaniard won the tiebreak 7-4 to claim his 19th ATP title on hard and first since the 2017 US Open. It was a great performance from Nadal going 6-2, 5-4, held by his holds sailed and with dominated his forehand to gain the upper hand from the baseline.

Despite this weak streak in the closing stages, Nadal finished the match with 27 winners and 20 unforced errors. At the same time, Tsitsipas hit 15 direct points and 25 errors. Nothing could separate them at the shortest points down to four strokes and Rafa created the crucial gap in the more challenging rallies of five to eight strokes and those who hit the ninth stroke.

Having played such games countless times before, Nadal made the best possible start. He dominated his service games and took his chances on the return to take the opener 6-2 in just 34 minutes.

Rafael Nadal beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the Toronto 2018 final.

Rafa dropped just one point in four service games and Stefanos wasn’t nearly as fast, serving under 50% and getting broken twice.

The Spaniard drew first blood in game three when he converted the third break point for an early lead. Thanks to a forehand error by Tsitsipas, he was already 4-1 up after 22 minutes. A stellar forehand winner pushed Nadal 5-1 up and the opening set was in his hands after holding another game in game eight.

Rafa broke the youngster in the first game of the second set and both served well in the following eight games, giving Nadal a 5-4 lead for the title. Stefanos increased his level compared to the opening set. He was there to challenge Nadal with aggressive and balanced tennis, which earned him a place in the final.

The problem was that he had only gained three points on the return since the game started and no one could have expected him to do much in that tenth game either. Suddenly, Rafa lost momentum and got broken at 30, missing a chance to seal the deal and having to salvage a set point when he served two games later!

The Spaniard put it out after a lucky net to set up a tiebreak in which he was the clear favorite. Tsitsipas had an early mini-break but Nadal leveled the deficit after the Greek’s massive forehand error in the fourth point.

A service winner put Rafa 4-3 ahead and earned a crucial mini break when Stefanos’ forehand ended at the net. Another poor forehand from the 20-year-old earned Nadal the championship point. He fired a forehand crosscourt winner in the 11th point for 7-4 and a title celebration.

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