Canada Flashback: Rafael Nadal tops Stefanos Tsitsipas and claims 80th ATP title



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Canada Flashback: Rafael Nadal tops Stefanos Tsitsipas and claims 80th ATP title

Competing in Toronto for the first time since 2010 when Andy Murray stopped him in the semi-final, Rafael Nadal claimed the fourth Canada Open title in 2018 following a 6-2, 7-6 victory over Stefanos Tsitsipas. The Greek beat four top-10 players to reach the title clash, becoming the youngest Masters 1000 finalist since Novak Djokovic in Miami 2007 and facing Rafa on his 20th birthday.

Nadal was unwilling to give Stefanos a birthday gift, scoring his 40th win from 43 matches that year and becoming the fourth player in the Open era with 80 ATP titles after Jimmy Connors, Ivan Lendl and Roger Federer. Tsitsipas fended off a match point against Alexander Zverev and Kevin Anderson to set Rafael Nadal clash, their second in the finals after Barcelona earlier that year.

The Greek pulled the break back in the second set and earned a set point in the 12th game, denied by Rafa, who lost the ground a bit in those moments. In the end, the Spaniard won the tie break 7-4 to lift his 19th ATP title on hard and the first since the US Open 2017.

It was a marvelous performance from Nadal until 6-2 5-4, sailing through his service games and dominating with his forehand to have the upper hand from the baseline. Nadal finished the match with 27 winners and 20 unforced errors despite that weak period in the closing stages, while Tsitsipas hit 15 direct points and 25 mistakes.

Nothing could separate them in the shortest points up to four strokes, and Rafa created the crucial gap in the more challenging rallies from five to eight strokes and those that reached the ninth shot. After playing matches like this numerous times before, Nadal made the best possible start, dominating in his service games and using his opportunities on the return to take the opener 6-2 in just 34 minutes.

Rafael Nadal beat Stefanos Tsitsipas in the final in Toronto 2018.

He lost just one point in four service games, and Stefanos was nowhere near that pace, 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 and found himself 4-1 up after just 22 minutes thanks to Tsitsipas' forehand error.

An outstanding forehand winner pushed Nadal 5-1 up, and the opening set was in his hands after another hold at love in game eight. Rafa broke the youngster in the second set's first game, and they both served well in the following eight games, leaving Nadal to serve for the title at 5-4.

Stefanos raised his level in comparison to the opening set and was there to challenge Nadal with aggressive and well-balanced tennis, which brought him a place in the final. The problem was, he won just three points on the return since the start of the match, and no one could expect he would do much in that tenth game either.

Out of a sudden, Rafa lost momentum and got broken at 30, missing a chance to seal the deal and having to save a set point when he served two games later! After a lucky net cord, the Spaniard erased it to set up a tie break where he was the clear favorite.

Tsitsipas had an early mini-break, but Rafa eliminated the deficit after the Greek's huge forehand error in the fourth point. A service winner moved Nadal 4-3 up, and he earned a crucial mini-break when Stefanos' forehand finished in the net.

Another poor forehand from the 20-year-old gave Nadal the championship point, and he fired a forehand crosscourt winner in the 11th point for 7-4 and a title celebration.