‘Rafael Nadal made me nervous in the final,’ Stefanos Tsitsipas recalls

Competing in his seventh Masters 1000 tournament in Toronto 2018, an upcoming star Stefanos Tsitsipas had to dig deep to earn a notable result. Stefanos played on a high level against Dominic Thiem and a former winner Novak Djokovic, never losing serve and meeting the defending champion Alexander Zverev in the quarters. The German had the match in his hands, opening a 6-3, 5-2 advantage and wasting it and two match points in the second set tie break to suffer a 3-6, 7-6, 6-4 loss to propel Tsitsipas into the semis. Still a teenager, Stefanos became the youngest player with four top-10 victories at a single event since the ATP Tour’s formation in 1990 after saving another match point in a 6-7, 6-4, 7-6 win over Kevin Anderson. Already gathering enough points to crack the top-20, Tsitsipas played for the Masters 1000 title against Rafael Nadal on his 20th birthday.

After an incredible week, the Greek suffered a 6-2, 7-6 loss to Nadal, finishing with the runner-up prize and still writing history. Stefanos had taken only three games against Rafa in the title match in Barcelona in April and could not find the winning formula in Toronto, as the Spaniard claimed the 40th victory from 43 encounters in 2018. Stefanos took 12 points on the return, and a few of those came in the tenth game of the second set when he broke back to prolong the set and at 6-5 when he squandered a set point. 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. Despite that shaky period in the last part of the clash, he finished the match with 27 winners and 20 unforced errors, while Tsitsipas hit 15 direct points and 25 mistakes.

After beating four top-10 rivals, Stefanos Tsitsipas to Rafael Nadal in Toronto 2018.

Nothing could separate them in the shortest rallies up to four strokes, and Rafa created the crucial gap in the more challenging exchanges from five to eight strokes and those that reached the ninth shot. The Spaniard made a strong start, dropping one point in four service games of the opener and securing two breaks in games three and five for 6-2. Tsitsipas suffered another break in the second set’s first game and left Nadal serving for the title at 5-4. After taking only three return points since the start of the duel, Stefanos showed his skills in that tenth game to earn a break at 30 and prolong the action. The youngster had a set point at 6-5 and saved it with a lucky net cord, bringing the game home and gathering a boost ahead of the tie break. The Spaniard claimed it 7-4 with a forehand winner to seal the deal and start a massive celebration. 

“I lost to Rafael Nadal in Barcelona. It’s not easy to come back and play another final against him. I was a bit nervous, and I overthought, which was not the case in the previous matches,” Stefanos Tsitsipas said.

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