Red-Hot Rafael Nadal Defeats Stefanos Tsitsipas to Win 2018 Rogers Cup Final

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistAugust 12, 2018

TORONTO, ON - AUGUST 12:  Rafael Nadal of Spain plays a shot against Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece during the final match on Day 7 of the Rogers Cup at Aviva Centre on August 12, 2018 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Rafael Nadal apparently wasn't in a giving mood on Stefanos Tsitsipas' 20th birthday.

Nadal handled the birthday boy in straight sets Sunday at the 2018 Rogers Cup final in Toronto, 6-2, 7-6 (4), to win his fifth title of the year. The 32-year-old has been playing some of the best tennis of his career in 2018 and lived up to the billing as the No. 1 seed in Toronto, winning in straight sets in every match but his quarterfinals showdown against Marin Cilic.

The Spaniard also won the French Open, Barcelona Open, Rolex Monte-Carlo Masters and Rome Masters earlier this year in addition to reaching the semifinals in Wimbledon before losing a five-set thriller against Novak Djokovic.

"To win this match is important—it's very important to be in the final of Toronto," Nadal said after beating Karen Khachanov to qualify for Sunday's final, per Sky Sports. "... I'm motivated every day when I wake up; there is always something to improve. I want to stay around for as long as possible (in tennis)."

He looked like someone who will be around for years to come, dictating play with his serve and taking advantage of early break opportunities to leave little doubt.

Nadal broke Tsitsipas' second and third service games in the opening set, which was all the top seed needed to take early control considering he won a head-turning 100 percent of his first-service points in the set, per the tournament's official website.

The script appeared to be the same as the only other head-to-head matchup between the finalists in their careers, which Nadal won in straight sets, 6-2, 6-1, earlier this year in Barcelona. However, Tsitsipas didn't fold and earned his first break when Nadal was serving for match, which led to the second-set tiebreak.

Nadal prevailed and ultimately won 94 percent of his first-service points while saving 67 percent of his break points, but it was a credit to Tsitsipas that he battled back against such a formidable foe.

Despite the loss, Tsitsipas was still an impressive force in Toronto. According to Cale Hammond of Tennis.com, he became the youngest player in ATP World Tour history to win four straight matches against Top 10 opponents.

Fatigue may have been a factor in the final considering his last three wins went the full three sets. He beat Novak Djokovic in the third round, Alexander Zverev in the quarterfinals and Kevin Anderson in the semifinals, which was a much more arduous route to the championship match than Nadal, who needed the full three sets just once.

Tsitsipas' magic came to an end when he ran into a buzzsaw the rest of the ATP World Tour has struggled with as well—Nadal in 2018.

The Western and Southern Open in Cincinnati and the Winston-Salem Open in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, are next, but the U.S. Open looms in late August and early September.

Nadal appears primed to contend for another Grand Slam title.

   

*Stats courtesy of the tournament's official website.

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