Nadal Toughs Out Khachanov, Will Meet Tsurprising Tsisitpas For Toronto Title; Who’s The Pick?
by Sean Randall | August 12th, 2018, 2:26 am

What a crazy final is in store Sunday at the Toronto Masters. Back again is the familiar Big 4 name of Rafael Nadal, but his opponent is Stefanos Tsitsipas who beat not one, not two, not three but four straight Top 10 players consecutively to make the biggest final of his very young career.

The Greek who was outside the Top 160 and playing Challengers in Slovenia a year ago, is now inside the Top 20 and after this week has put himself among the very best of this uber-talented group of kids. And he’s just 19. Well, now 20!

“I’m living the dream,” Tsitsipas said his second straight win over Kevin Anderson. “I’m playing amazing. I’m enjoying it more than ever out on the court with the crowd. It’s been the key factor. They have helped me so much to win all those matches. It feels like I’m playing Davis Cup and everyone is backing me up and they’re so supportive.

“Four wins against top 10 players. I would never imagined that I could pull this out in a single tournament. It’s just — it’s not — we’re not used to that.”

No, we are not used to that because no one has beaten four in a row at a regular event since JW Tsonga at 2014 Toronto.

So how did he do it? Well, he got some confidence at Wimbledon making the fourth round, then reached the semifinals in D.C. and this week beat up again on the fledgling Dominic Thiem, then got over a listless-looking Novak Djokovic. Alexander Zverev followed by flat-out gagging up 6-3, 5-2, though you have credit Tsitsipas in the end for gutting that one out.

And then today he held firm against US Open and Wimbledon finalist Anderson in a 6-7(4), 6-4, 7-6(7) nailbiter. What’s most impressive about the teen is that he’s been so clutch (as they said on TV, and I agree). On big points, he comes up big. Contrast that with Zverev Friday who shriveled when the going got tough, this kid keeps his cool and play some of his best tennis when it means the most.

Today, that was really the difference. Anderson had 3-4 chances in the third to break but Tsitsipas just came up with the better tennis. And he did it again in the final set breaker (save for the double fault at 6-4 which he thought was 5-3!) hitting a crosscourt screamer of a backhand down matchpoint.

“My serve,” Tsitsipas credited. “I managed to save so many break points today. He had so many break points. I don’t remember exactly how many, but I remember I had to save a few of them.

“And I think he never did made the return on my serve. And psychologically I think it kind of annoyed him that he knew that he couldn’t start a really whenever he had the chance. So I guess I found solutions on his serve. And then he got tired because he understood I could add more variety on my serve, and he was basically doing one thing every single time.”

Tsitsipas has a very strong, all-around game. Decent serve, very solid forehand, good backhand and he showed again today that he’s capable at the net. And like he said, he also thinks about solutions and as we saw, he’s not afraid to make adjustments.

Where he has issues is his movement and his second serve, which Anderson couldn’t take advantage of when he had to.

So he’s going only one place, and that’s higher in the rankings. And if he improves that second serve, there’s no doubt he could be No. 1 someday. He’s got the “clutch gene”, and few have it and it’s something you can’t just learn.

Meanwhile, Anderson just could not get that one extra ball back or hit that second serve return over the net. The opportunity to make that first Masters final was there for taking.

“It’s obviously incredibly difficult losing a match like that where it’s so close at such a big stage of the tournament,” Anderson said. “I did what I could. I thought he played some really good tennis, especially when it mattered the most. I had a couple of break points end of the second set and then in the third set too. He didn’t miss a first serve. He played really well then.

“On the one match point that I had, he came up with an unbelievable backhand crosscourt winner. So it was a very impressive effort from him.”

In the final, it’s Nadal. And Rafa’s out for his first hardcourt Masters since 2013. Rafa hung on to beat Stan Wawrinka Thursday night, then waited out Marin Cilic to come off his high to win in three yesterday.

Tonight, against Masters semifinal debutant Karen Khachanov, it was much more straightforward. After a 2-hour rain delay and after trading early breaks, the two slugged it out until Nadal took control in the breaker.

Nadal broke early again in the second and scored the 7-6(3), 6-4 win. Khachanov bullied Nadal a little with his awesome power, but Rafa was too tough.

“He’s a great server,” Nadal said of the Russian. “Hits big shots from the baseline. He has an especially great backhand and he can hit the forehand very strong too. It’s true with the forehand sometimes he has mistakes too, but he plays very aggressive and he hits the ball very strong.

“I needed to resist and play aggressive. When I was able to move him, I think I was a little bit more in control. But it’s difficult to make that happen because he hits the ball very strong.”

Khachanov is just 22 and like Zverev and Tsitsipas, he too is going to be a Top 5 kind of player. At 6’6″, he’s got the requisite massive game, and he moves OK. He just needs better coaching, shot selection and some form of defense. Fortunately, time is on his side.

As for tomorrow…

Rafael Nadal v Stefanos Tsitsipas
Conventional wisdom these days is that after playing so much tennis beating top players, Tsitsipas has to be gassed. Well, I’m not so sure. It hasn’t been that hot in Toronto this week and he’s just 20. So he should be OK and if he is feeling any fatigue, that challenge of playing against Rafa in a Masters should offset that.

“I’m going to give 100% on the court. It doesn’t matter if I’m going to die. I’m just going to give it my best shot,” Tsitsipas said.

And that’s the right attitude.

So I think he’ll be good to go. Problem is, so too will Rafa. Yes, after so many night matches, Nadal is playing in the day. But it shouldn’t matter much.

Rafa blew out Tsitsipas on his turf in Barcelona on the clay. This quicker surface and should aid the Greek who’s playing much better now. That said, my guess is Rafa’s going to back to well as he does so often against one-handed backhand guys, and just attack that side relentlessly with his forehand. And get the big kid moving moving.

“He’s a complex player. He has everything. He’s young. Has passion for the game. He has a great forehand, great backhand, good serve. So he’s not about one thing. He’s about everything,” Rafa said.

Tsitsipas will have to serve well as he’s been doing, and be solid off the ground. Maybe go for more on the forehand and work the slice off the backhand.

“I feel like my forehand is on fire at this moment,” Tsitsipas said. “Hopefully it can remain like this tomorrow because it will be super important for me, the win tomorrow.

“I feel like I can do anything with those two shots. And my backhand, of course, the down-the-line backhand, change directions, make the opponent guess of where I’m going to play.”

I feel the youngster will get some chances on Rafa’s serve, but I think Rafa will have his share of looks on Tstisipas’s second serve, as well.

But as I said, I think the kid is clutch and he converts just enough to make this an interesting final. Though the run ends here and Rafa’s not going to do any favors for him on his birthday. Nope.
The Pick: Nadal in three

Could Tsitsipas win it? Of course. Rafa hasn’t won a Masters on cement in five years and the kid has no pressure, no expectations just like he’s had all week. So why not?

“Just another day at the office,” Tsitsipas added. “Doesn’t matter. It’s a final. I will not see it as a final. I will just think of it as just another match here in Toronto in a beautiful city.”

See, simple. It’s just another match. Ha ha.

Regardless, Tsitsipas is the story of the tournament like Denis Shapovalov was a year ago. And add his name to the growing list of guys who are going to be playing the final weekend of Slams for many years to come.

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42 Comments for Nadal Toughs Out Khachanov, Will Meet Tsurprising Tsisitpas For Toronto Title; Who’s The Pick?

chofer Says:

The best possible final not being Djoko available is this one.

Let’s enjoy it. Say no more.

May the best win and Tsitsipas has arrived to stay. How do I know. He’s smart, has heart and is the better Next Genner already. Better than Zverev, you might ask? BETTER!
Best thinker, best mover, best variants on spins and trajectories, less prone to tantrums when things are not going his way, more humble, he can adjust to any player, any surface. And, more importantly, any given moment of a match.

Do I think he will win tomorrow? No. But I think it’s the best scenario for tennis right now. Sasha needs a spanking in Grand Slams. And Tsistsipas will reignite his hunger and composure by winning one first when nobody was expecting him, among the touted next-genners, to do it.

Here’s a game changer for the future. Who plays with purpose, and coolness beyond his years. With shot selection that defies his age and put a similarly talent like Kyrgios to shame.

A charismatic kid that will soon will be embraced by the great family of tennis at large.

At least, the one who has similar traits that the ones we forsee in the Big 4 before they ruled over.

Mark my words. The rest lacks something or another. Zverev the belief he will win 7 matches best of five in a row and the belief he could still lose to someone younger than him in smaller events and cope with it without throwing your rival off the train by calling the match “pathetic”. That’s a sore excuse and poor understanding that your rival wasn’t going to play at your pace and has enough talent to feed you junk food so you can tangle yourself in his spiderweb. It’s KNOWING TO WIN WHEN YOUR OPPONENT IS PLAYING BETTER. Sasha, you don’t know jack about that yet. See that match again. Tsitsipas knew it. He won in his own terms, not yours. That’s why you are so angry. You didn’t know what hit you. You couldn’t close it out. Bielieve, too, your new rival has guts you might even not have yet.

Krgyios. You find a match for you. Someone who can play the junk game with you on your own terms, and mixed with the kaboom of service winners, unreturned forehands and scintillating drop shots. In short: he’s as good as you. The difference is that you don’t posses neither the will nor the brain tennis your new rival has. You are way behind him now. Plus, he can win big on clay, too. The idea of clay, bores you to death. You’re not in his league. And you’re older.

Thiem: Here you have a natural claycourter. You may win some and lose some. But your rival may win big in places when you only can dream of. You’re rival will play the whole season, not just the clay season. And he’s younger than you.

Shapovalov: You are as charismatic as the new kid in town will be in short. You’re a spectacular shotmaker who can get the crowd behind. You both posses the will and heart to be champions. But you’re BH side is still weak unless you hit the gym to work on that upper torso arm a bit. You’re still too fragile physucally for that kind of risky game and 5 grueling sets. . You make an effort to hit early so you won’t need to defense. You’re rival has born with the defense in his DNA, plus knows the transition game to offense already better than you. Plus, he serves better and can volley as well as you. He, too, is not afraid to come forward, like Thiem of Zverev. But he can grind it out on clay, something it will take you more than a season watching Rafa tapes to learn. You’re rival has more variants.

Chung: You’re steady but you like some big weapon like your rival’s serve and FH. You’re smart. But get to work on these weapons if want to stay with him in the long run.

De Minaur: You’r spunky anf full of fight. You’re shot seection is crap. You’re rival with toy with you in any surface. You have no chance other than fighting. That can win matches, not big tournamnets consistently.

Am I forgetting someone? Oh yes!

Tsitsipas: What you cab do with the ball is everything and astounding. You change the pace of the ball, offering the generally ball.bashing players no pace to hit it back. You can be smarter and unpreductable. That’s a daunting thing to be!!
You can only letdown tennis by believing you are the king of the worls, rest on the eternal appraisal of Greeks who were hunger for you or simply stop thinking out through a match.

if nothing of this is happening to you. You’ll be the brightest star of them all. I hope you the best: tennis needs you.

Amit Says:

I never liked the mechanical play of zverev first of all! Add his arrogance to that! He is simply not my type! But Tsitsipas is soo exciting! I hope he wins his first MS tomorrow against the legend Rafa! #GoTsisipas!!! 🙌🙌🙌

Margot Says:

chofer: such an interesting analysis here on all the “next gen”, and on the other thread specifically about our handsome young Greek. Think, many moons ago, I called him “Icarus.” Well he’s flying a lot closer to the sun these days!
Anyway, thank you so much for your tennis input. Much appreciated.

Humble Rafa Says:


Have you considered writing a book? It’s a better format for you.

Margot Says:

1) chofer is very interesting and knowledgeable
2) chofer is not Dave

Mystic - Willow Says:

Chofer you remind me of another long time poster called MMT and another called Tennis Vagabond, very clever and knowledgeable with your analysis, enjoy reading your posts ….

Margot no thank goodness, or Toni.N, much too heavily biased in favour of Federer, Chofer is the exact opposite very balanced with his analysis ….

j-kath Says:

Anyone want to see Andy and Kyrios at play…although it is not tennis ?–861692.html

Mystic - Willow Says:

LOL Thanks for sharing J-Kath ;-)

Margot Says:

Eek Mystic, I’d completely forgotten about Tony N! Eek! Eek! :0

chofer Says:


Déjate de joder tío. No soy seguidor de Federer! Y bájate ya del personaje de Rafa que pareces tener un problema de identidad. Feo.

Truth Says:

Tsis gets the deserved praise and owns legendary talent.
He’s pretty and macho in a good way, on and off court.
If he keeps going, only HE & Djoker would win the most Masters and Slams.

He concentrates like a 23 year old superstar. He glides & moves fast like he’s 4 inches shorter yet he still has the arm reach and soft touch of a magical eagle.
Dropshots are unpredictable and maestro.
Overhead smash is like missile.
Can you imagine Baghdatis or Federer playing like this, let alone Roddick? Lmao😂🤣🤣
People talk about weakest draws of all time?

chofer Says:


Hi! Thanks. I think I finally understand yesterday what this kid is about interms of potential. Kyerten “casualness” with effortless shots and changes of pace the likes I didn’t see since the heydeys of Goolagong-Cawley. A one of a kind!

I’ve already told he’s the “thinking-man Kyrgios”. And for all of us who have been frustrated with him all these years, a God-given answer to our prayer to see such effortlesness followed by the intelligence and desire to win lacking in these kind of novelty talents. The works!

Rafa knows how to cope with those. The only problem with Tsitsipas is that he has too many options. Sometimes missing easy balls for overthinking. Rafa can put you in a frame of mind that “missing” balls is the way out.

Today it will the last proof for this kid’s coolness under pressure. He’s not the favorite, so he should play loose. I hope he does.

j-kath Says:

Hi, Mystic Willow – glad U got a few smiles/grins/laughs….I liked it, because it was just 2 guys (that we know)having fun.

Margot Says:

chofer: He’s like Andy then with ” too many options.”
In this rather wonderful article:
Tignor writes, “His game, in many ways, is about deliberately not risking showmanship -no-one has more shots or tricks
that he doesn’t use than Murray.” If he’s right I think it’s a shame that Andy modifies his game because his wont
risk being seen as a “show off.”
However, Tsitsipas seems a lot calmer on court than Andy, so I’m predicting he’ll have a more successful career.

chofer Says:



And here’s what I wrote yesterday, during the match!

“He takes pace off the ball constantly. How many do that? Murray and…

August 11th, 2018 at 3:30 pm”


chofer Says:

His serve will be netter than Andy, also.

And he HAS the big weapon: His FH. The fact that he follows usually to the net to close it out is what separastes him apart of his gen-peers, except El Shapo.

Unlik El Shapo, he’s the better all around athlete, like Zverev.

Unlike Zverev, he has more options (someone metioned here Sasha’s game seems “mechanical” which is true)

So… he’s his own man. Very special player. The works.

chofer Says:

But Nadal knows how to explot players with “too many options” See Roger and Andy.

Every short ball Stefanos hit, Nadal will punish or drop-back. As many have said here: he’s a problem solver.

I want Rafa to fix my house on a daily basis:))

Daniel Says:

Tsitsi already getting broken with too many UE. Maybe his legs are confessing

FedExpress Says:

Just shake hands Stef. What a gift of a HC title.

Daniel Says:

Match will be a no contest. As much as we hype him, Zverev should have got the job done abd was winning easy. Anderson also should have won. Nadal ina 6-2, 6-3 score at best.

He was kind of lucky but he mayde his own luck besting Cilic. Next week he can even lose first round and save himself for USO. Last 2 times he won a summer HC Mastees he also won USO.

FedExpress Says:

For mankind I hope Nadal doesnt win the USO
Fed is low on confidence since the Delpo loss. Actually he never hit true top form this seasom so far. I dont expect him to win Cincy either, let alone USO.

He needs his confidence first. After the IW loss he plays so passive on important points. Doesnt trust his weapons. Plays safe. and gets punished.

Daniel Says:

Nadal lost only 1 point on serve in 4 service games. Tistsi not able to hit deep, FH no where, 10 errors.
Trashing, no long rallys, one of the easiest HC match Nadal played in years.

Maybe Anderson will play him a bit tougher with his serve and more agressive return.

FedExpress Says:

Stefs pants are brown

Giles Says:

FE. One of the classy fedfans. NOT!!

D.C. Says:

FE, for mankind Nadal doesn’t win the us open.lmao, do you even use your mind while saying something. Then again u have not one

Daniel Says:

Ok, This is starting to, quoting Zverev, becoming pathetic. 1 point lost on serve for Nadal, who does not have a power serve is too much

chofer Says:


You have no idea what your talking about.

Rafa is playing the best harcourt match since his USO win last year. That’s one year ago!

Nobody’s chicken out. Stefanos tried serve and volleying, not working. Drop.shotting,missing.

He’s unplayable today.

Light years away we saw with Cilic. Nadal has a way to be so relentless when he’s this good, you throw the towel.

It’s a final, too. Another story.

Daniel Says:

If Nadal keeps his service games pace, this match will enter in his history books as his best single serve display ever. I mean he has won 28/30 pts.

I recall Fed had some matches with 5-6 pts lost ojnserve, but 2?! Never heard of.

chofer Says:

Scary good Rafa.

Now, he jnows he’s ready for the USO defense. Regardless of what happens in Cincinatti, he should be considered the fv there.

chofer Says:


I don’t think I’ve seen Nadal serve like this since… I don’t know? Absurd!

Daniel Says:

Now is 3 pts lost on serve. If he breaks to close, final number. If not he will have to serve 1 more game.

chofer Says:

He’s playing with house money also. There’s no story between these two. Djoko, Federer, on the other hand… They’re they “peers”. A state of mind changes, hesitation shows-up.

Even then, THIS Nadal wins against them.

chofer Says:

I won’t take back what I’ve said about Stef. He’s good for the game. He’ll learn bc he’s smart.

Rafa too good even for himself today.

No complaints like Zverev for the Greek.

Acknowledge your rival superiority, move on.

chofer Says:

Murphy’s law: Praise Rafa’s serve, serve desert him for the first time. Never fails!

chofer Says:

Congrats Rafa for your 80th title.

Now, that was a lovly greeting at the net.

j-kath Says:

Congrats Rafa….only took 2 sets….set 2 you had to work, but U got it, deservedly.

Giles Says:

Well done Champ!
Take that haters!

Okiegal Says:

Congratulations Rafa! So happy for another title! The “Fly” got a slow start but got fired up in the second and made it exciting…… too exciting actually. Rafa usually pretty solid in tiebreakers. Second set had me behind the sofa!!!

AndyMira Says:

Haaa Miss Okie!!…Now u believe me that Rafa can win whole d@#$ thing??Hehehe….U should listen to me!!Ohohohohoho!!….This is soooooooo sweet!!Aaaaoooooo!!!

AndyMira Says:

Oh!1 more thing Miss Okie!…I LOVE U!!

ChrisFord1 Says:

Rafa widens his lead over Djokovic in most Masters 1000s ever. He was playing great today. Looks like Andy will be giving Cincinnati a try. And for me, it would be nice if Novak finally wins Cincinnati, and keeps his comeback going. People in Cincinnati show fine hospitality to players and fans, friendly people. Lots to do. My favorite US venue for tennis after Indian Wells.

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