By Max Gao
No. 3 seed Stefanos Tsitsipas kicked off his 23rd birthday in fine style on Thursday afternoon, defeating reigning Olympic silver medalist Karen Khachanov, 6-3, 6-2, to record his fourth win in as many meetings against the Russian. The Greek star will now face No. 6 seed Casper Ruud, who is also enjoying a career-best season on the ATP Tour, for a spot in the semi-finals of the 2021 National Bank Open presented by Rogers. Ruud won their only meeting in Madrid earlier this year.
Three years after losing in the final of this event on his 20th birthday, Tsitsipas enjoyed a much more joyful celebration at the Sobeys Stadium, looking in complete control in his 79-minute clash with Khachanov. The Greek saved both break points he faced and dictated a large portion of the rallies, preventing Khachanov from stepping inside the baseline and controlling the points with his flat groundstrokes. While he only made 50 percent (27/54) of his first serves, Tsitsipas was extremely impressive when he was able to make the first delivery, winning 93 percent (25/27) of those points to sail into the last eight.
The 2019 Nitto ATP Finals champion will now face the red-hot Casper Ruud, who extended his winning streak to 13 matches with a comprehensive 6-4, 6-3 victory over Serbia’s Dusan Lajovic. With little to separate both players in the first set, Ruud took advantage of a short lapse in concentration from Lajovic, who hit four unforced errors to gift the opening frame to the Norwegian. Ruud, who dropped just two points on serve in the opening set, continued his imperious form into the second, claiming a decisive break in the eighth game en route to serving out the match with minimal fuss.
“Casper is a player that has been developing very good recently,” Tsitsipas said of his next opponent. “He had an amazing clay court season, I think inside the top three as the guys with the best clay court season this year. He’s someone that serves very well, has a very good serve-and-first-ball pattern that works really well for him … It’s definitely something that I’m going to have to pay attention to, and, you know, apply more pressure towards that.”
Big-serving American John Isner recorded his third victory in as many meetings against Andrey Rublev, defeating the No. 4-seeded Russian, 7-5, 7-6(5). Isner, a former semi-finalist at this event in 2012, will now await the winner of the match between No. 11 seed Gael Monfils and American Frances Tiafoe.
In a match with 11 breaks of serve, No. 10 seed Roberto Bautista Agut closed out the day session with a marathon two-hour, 45-minute victory over No. 8 seed Diego Schwartzman, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5. After splitting the first two sets, Schwartzman earned a crucial break to lead 5-3 and served for the match at 5-4, but he was unable to convert any of his three match points before Bautista Agut broke back to draw level at 5-all. The Spaniard saved a break point in his following service game before breaking once more in a dramatic 12th game to secure a spot in his third quarter-final at this event.
Bautista Agut will now face another big-serving American in Reilly Opelka, who continued his inspired run in Toronto with a hard-fought 4-6, 7-6(6), 6-4 win over South Africa’s Lloyd Harris.
In doubles action, No. 1 seeds and reigning Olympic gold medalist Nikola Mektic and Mate Pavic survived an early scare from the all-British team of Daniel Evans and Neal Skupski, winning 3-6, 7-5, 13-11, while No. 3 seeds Rajeev Ram and Joe Salisbury defeated Andrey Golubev and Andreas Mies, 6-3, 6-2.
No. 2 seeds and two-time Grand Slam champions Juan Sebastián Cabal and Robert Farah knocked out Khachanov and Rublev, 6-3, 6-4. But No. 5 seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo did not meet the same fate as the rest of the seeds, falling to Lajovic and Aslan Karatsev, 6-4, 6-4.
Other winners include Matwe Middelkoop and Luke Saville, who won by retirement against Alexander Bublik and Cristian Garin, and Joran Vliegen and Sander Gille, who defeated Austin Krajicek and Wesley Koolhof, 7-6(5), 2-6, 10-8.