Rafael Nadal went to the Canada Masters as world No. 1. 1 five years ago. Nadal played well in Toronto and reached his first final at the event since 2013! Nadal defeated first-time Masters 1000 semifinalist Karen Khachanov 7-6, 6-4 in an hour and 49 minutes after a tough battle.
The former champion controlled the lead despite a close score, had just one break point and created seven chances on the return. The Russian was able to fend off five of them to stay in the race. Nevertheless, with his best Masters 1000 performance, it wasn’t enough to win at least one set and extend the duel.
It was Nadal’s 39th win from 42 encounters in 2018 and he became the first player to qualify for the ATP Finals! The Spaniard had 22 wins and unforced errors. At the same time, Khachanov was on a negative 24-37 ratio, making too many forehand errors while trying to maintain an aggressive approach and gain the upper hand on rallies. Nadal saved after a couple of deuces in the opening game of the encounter and secured a break in the next game thanks to Khachanov’s loose forehand. Karen returned to serve in the third game when Rafa’s forehand landed wide and got a boost.
It was a significant moment for his confidence as he served well in staying in touch with a major rival. The Russian saved a break chance with an ace in game eight and scored three winners at 5-6 to set up a tiebreak. Khachanov’s forehand let him down at the worst moment. He lost two points on serve and fell 5-2 behind, allowing Rafa to break 7-3 after 61 minutes with another mini-break in the tenth point.
Buoyed by that momentum, Nadal lost just six points on serve in set number two, keeping the pressure on the other side. Unable to follow that pace, Khachanov was broken in the third game when his forehand went into the net.
A fantastic forehand winner across the board gave Rafa another break chance in game five, but it was thwarted by Karen’s powerful forehand. The Russian won the game after a few more deuces to stay within a break deficit and had to steal Nadal’s serve to prolong the fight.
That was the final big moment of the game, however, as Rafa raced towards the finish line. The Spaniard sealed the deal in game ten with a Pete Sampras-style smash, holding at love and setting up the title fight against Stefanos Tsitsipas.