No. 4 seed Rafael Nadal took down world No. 1 Novak Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(2) on Saturday night in a titanic battle of big hitting at the Rogers Cup in Montreal.
“I said yesterday the only chance to win against Novak, the only tactic is to play very well,” Nadal said. “To play very well, I have to play aggressive. If not, I cannot play very well on this kind of surface. And I did. I played a very high level tonight, I think. I played with the right decisions in the important moments. Yes, the serve worked well during the whole night. And the shots from the baseline, I tried to stay very close to the baseline, go inside when I had the chance.”
The match was marked by an exchange at the net where after a Djokovic touch shot, Nadal ran up and drove a backhand that hit Djokovic in the face after glancing off his racquet. An angry Djokovic turned away from Nadal who was raising his hand in apology, which drew a shrug from Nadal.
In the third set tiebreak Nadal was the first to draw blood, going up 2-0, then 3-0, then 6-0 before Djokovic finally got on the board with two angry winners. On the next point Nadal secured his spot in the final.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry for that ball,” Nadal mouthed during the handshake.
“It was very close match,” Djokovic said who falls to 15-21 against Nadal, losing five of their last six. “So, I mean, there were very few points that decided the winner. Can’t really pick one moment. I had my chances. He had his chances. You know, I guess at the end he played better.
“Whenever we play against each other, it’s always a thrilling match for crowd to see. We are both competing at the high level. We both want to win these matches.”
In the final Nadal will meet Milos Raonic, who won a nervous battle of Canadians with Vasek “Popsicle” Pospisil 6-4, 1-6, 7-6(4).
Both players fought nerves in the tiebreaker as puff serves, mis-hits and unforced errors were the norm. Raonic served at 3-0 in the tiebreak before Posicle stormed back on serve, but in the end Raonic took control, on match point blocking a Popsicle overhead into the open court.
Raonic is the first Canadian to reach a Masters series final, and will now crack the Top 10 for the first time in the next ATP Rankings. Popsicle will break into the Top 40 for the first time.
It will be Nadal’s 36th Masters final (he’s won 24) compared to the first for Raonic and he’s beaten the Canadian all three times they’ve played without dropping a set.
“I started this important part of the season with a big result for me,” Nadal said. “To be in the final is amazing. To be in a final of a Masters 1000 is amazing for me. Especially beating the best player of the world, Novak, tonight, it is a big result for me. Very happy for that. Tomorrow is an important match. For me, to win another Masters 1000 is a big illusion. But I know that anything can happen. If I lose tomorrow I will be very happy the way that I played and the result that I had this week.”
In the Saturday semifinals at the Rogers Cup in Toronto, world No. 1 Serena Williams defeated the backboard Agnieszka Radwanska, downing the No. 3-seeded Pole 7-6(3), 6-4. On Sunday she will meet unlikely finalist Sorana Cirstea after the unseeded Romanian upset No. 4 Na Li of China 6-1, 7-6(5).
The almost-two-hour Williams match featured power against the variety and retrieving of Radwanka. Williams broke twice in the first set, but each time Radwanska broke back.
Radwanska went up a break 3-1 in the second set but Williams made the adjustments to break back and close out the match.
“I hadn’t played her in a little while and kind of forgot how flat she hits and how low she hits,” Williams said. “But it was okay. Once I accepted that the balls were going to be flat, then it was a little better.”
Williams finished with 42 winners to Radwanska’s eight.
Cirstea, 1-4 career against Li entering the match, rolled her opponent in the first set, then in the second with some more on-court coaching help from Darren Cahill came back from a 2-5 deficit to close it out in a tight breaker.
“I think I came on the court with a really good mentality today,” said Cirstea, who also rebounded from a 1-4 deficit in the tiebreak. “I was very focused from the start, and even when she started to push me in the second set, I was still playing quite well, except those two match points at 6-5, of course, when I think I got a little bit tight.”
Williams is 2-0 career against Cirstea, failing to lose a set.
“Sorana’s a great player,” Williams said. “She plays really tough. Gosh, she hits really hard. She has a really big serve. She moves well. She’s definitely not an easy player to play, but she’s — wow. Last few months she has been really consistent. She’s just a player who has finally found herself, and she’s playing better and better and getting more confident. It’s going to be a really tough match.”
CENTRAL start 12:30
C Fleming (GBR) / A Murray (GBR) vs  A Peya (AUT) / B Soares (BRA)
Not Before 15:00
 R Nadal (ESP) vs  M Raonic (CAN)
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