TORONTO – Rafael Nadal held off a late surge from birthday boy Stefanos Tsitsipas to earn a 6-2, 7-6 (7/4) victory in the final of the Toronto Masters on Sunday.
Success in just under one and three-quarter hours handed the 32-year-old Spaniard a record extending 33rd trophy at the elite Masters level as he won his 80th career title and claimed his 40th match victory of the season.
During the trophy ceremony, the many local flag-waving Greeks in the crowd sang Happy Birthday to their new tennis hero.
“Happy Birthday to Stefanos,” Nadal added. “Well done, you have a great future. It's been almost 10 years (2010) since I last played in Toronto,” Nadal said of the event which comes to the city in even-number years as it trades with Montreal.
“I've missed you, I want to try and come more often. This trophy means a lot. I try to play every match with the highest possible passion, it's a special feeling that I have on court.”
Tsitsipas took a defeat on his 20th birthday to conclude the tennis week of his life, which saw him beat four Top 10 opponent in a row to reach the title match.
“It's been an amazing week for me,” the finalist said. “This trophy means a lot after playing my first Masters 1000 final.
“... such a feeling, what a vibe,” he added.
Nadal added the Canadian honour to the titles he won in 2005, 2008 and 2013.
The final featured a plot twist at the end, with Nadal broken while serving for victory leading a set and 5-4. Tsitsipas would not buckle, making it 5-5 as Nadal hit the net, with the set finally going into a tiebreaker.
Nadal regained control, earning a match point on a Tsitsipas forehand error.
The Spanish top seed and world number one concluded victory with a forehand winner deep into the corner.
Nadal now heads to Cincinnati for next week's concluding major tuneup before the US Open.
He now owns four titles this season and has clinched the first spot in the year-end finals in London.
Agence France-Presse (AFP)