Canada Flashback: Rafael Nadal edges Karen Khachanov to reach final

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Canada Flashback: Rafael Nadal edges Karen Khachanov to reach final

World no. 1 and a three-time Canada Open champion Rafael Nadal advanced to his 116th ATP final in Toronto 2018, the first in Canada since 2013. Rafa took down the first time Masters 1000 semi-finalist Karen Khachanov 7-6, 6-4 in an hour and 49 minutes.

The former champion had the scoreboard under control, facing only one break point and creating seven opportunities on the return. The Russian repelled five of those to stay in contention, but it was not enough to win at least a set and proper the clash in his finest Masters 1000 week up to that point.

It was the 39th win for Nadal in 2018 from 42 encounters, and he qualified for the Atp Finals as the first player that year. The Spaniard had 22 winners and unforced errors. At the same time, Khachanov stood on a negative 24-37 ratio, making too many mistakes from his forehand while trying to stay aggressive and keep the upper hand in the rallies.

The youngster had the edge in the more extended exchanges but lost ground to Rafa in the shortest and mid-range ones. After few deuces, Nadal held in the opening game and grabbed a break in the next one after Khachanov's loose forehand.

Karen broke back at love in game three when Rafa's forehand landed long, which was a significant moment for his confidence, as he served well to remain in touch with a great rival.

Rafael Nadal beat Karen Khachanov to advance into the final in Toronto 2018.

The Russian saved a break chance with an ace in game eight and fired three winners at 5-6 to set up a tie break.

Khachanov's forehand let him down in the worst moment, losing two points on serve in a row to fall 5-2 behind and allowing Rafa to grab the breaker 7-3 with another mini-break in the tenth point after 61 minutes. Carried by this momentum, Nadal lost just six points on serve in set number two, and Khachanov could not follow that pace, getting broken in game three when his forehand finished in the net.

A fantastic forehand down the line winner earned another break chance for Rafa in game five, denied by Karen's mighty forehand this time. The Russian brought the game home after a few more deuces to stay within one break deficit, having to steal Nadal's serve if he wanted to extend the battle.

That was the last big moment of the match, though, as Rafa drove fast towards the finish line, sealing the deal with a Pete Sampras-like smash in game ten for a hold at love and a place in the final.

Rafael Nadal Karen Khachanov Stefanos Tsitsipas