TORONTO – Rafael Nadal recovered from a slow start, overcoming Marin Cilic 2-6 6-4 6-4 as the Spaniard’s chase for a long-sought ATP Masters title on hardcourt heated up on Friday.
The world number one reached the semi-finals in Toronto and will next face Russian Karen Khachanov, who beat Robin Haase 6-3 6-1.
Nadal last won a title at this level on cement in 2013.
“It was a very important match for me,” Nadal said. “Being in semi-finals is great news at the start of the hardcourt season.
“And winning three good matches in the first Masters 1000, it’s so important for me.
“He played unstoppable in the first set. I resisted, I played with the right tactic. I tried to find my solutions – but it was so difficult.”
Stefanos Tsitsipas saved two match points to beat defending champion Alexander Zverev 3-6 7-6 (13/11) 6-4 and reach the semi-finals.
The Greek teenager, who turns 20 on Sunday’s final day, defeated his third straight top-10 opponent at the tournament after knocking out Dominic Thiem in the second round and 13-time major winner Novak Djokovic in the third.
Tsitsipas is the youngest player to post three top-10 wins at a single tournament since a 19-year-old Nadal at Monte Carlo in 2006.
He will next face Wimbledon runner-up Kevin Anderson, who beat Grigor Dimitrov 6-2 6-2.
“I’m confused now, is this real?” 27th-ranked Tsitsipas said after completing his prestige hat trick of upsets.
The Greek rallied from a set and 5-2 down to turn the tables on Zverev, who had been bidding for a fourth Masters 1000 title.
Tsitsipas broke in the ninth game of the second on the way into a tie-breaker, where he calmly converted on his fifth set point after saving two match points for the second-seeded Zverev.
Tsitsipas then salvaged four break points for 2-1 in the third, he traded breaks with the German and saved another trio of break points for a 5-4 lead.
He completed the victory after nearly two-and-a-half hours on Zverev’s sixth double-fault.
“This shows that with dedication and work, dreams do come true,” Tsitsipas said. “I can see that it’s real – it’s happening.
“I don’t know what happened (in the second set) I just broke him (for 4-5). All along I could feel the crowd support; I knew I was still in the match.”
Anderson’s sweep past reigning ATP World Tour Finals champion Dimitrov was a rematch of their 2014 quarter-final duel in Canada, when Dimitrov claimed one of his six wins against the South African.
“It definitely was a great match today. I felt I played really well right from the beginning,” Anderson said.
“Right from the first point till the last, I felt I was in a really good frame of mind, playing the kind of tennis that I knew I wanted to be playing and needed to be playing.
“Getting off the court pretty comfortably definitely is a really good feeling.”
Anderson hadn’t defeated the Bulgarian for six years, but he was in command throughout on Friday to reach his second career Masters 1000 semi-final, having also made the last-four on clay in Madrid in May.
The big South African rolled into the semis in just 66 minutes, breaking four times while managing only a modest 11 aces.
“There’s not much to say, he came out, played his game and everything was going his way,” Dimitrov said. “He did everything well – simple as that.
“There was not much for me to do. I tried as hard as I can, but I couldn’t get into a rally.”
Dimitrov will now head for the Cincinnati Masters, where he is the defending champion. Tsitsipas won his only previous match over Anderson, beating him on clay last May in Estoril.