There have been few true challenges for Stefanos Tsitsipas at Toronto’s National Bank Open this year.
Sure, Ugo Humbert of France forced the Greek No. 3 seed into a third set with an extended tiebreak in the second round, but Tsitsipas has been a dominant force on the court all week, winning each subsequent match in straight sets.
He clinched his spot in the semi-finals on Friday with a solid 6-1, 6-4 win over No. 6 seed Casper Ruud.
“Every single opponent that I’ve had to face is someone that has played good in the past and has the level to face me straight. And I’ve dealt with these situations really well,” Tsitsipas told reporters after the match.
Ruud, the world No. 12, came into Friday on a 14-match win streak, having collected recent victories at tournaments in Austria, Switzerland and Sweden.
Success on Canadian soil is nothing new to Tsitsipas. He made it to the finals of the tournament formerly known as the Rogers Cup in 2018, losing to Rafael Nadal.
He noted, though, that a place in this year’s finals is no guarantee.
“I still have a few more matches to go, so not much to compare there, honestly. I’m happy where my game is at right now,” said the world No. 3, who turned 23 on Thursday.
“Obviously I’m excited for what’s to come. And I’m always, every single day, trying to come up with solutions and ways this is going to be easier and more efficient for me.”
Tsitsipas jumped out to an early 5-0 lead over Ruud on Friday, winning 2-of-3 break points and 84 per cent of his service points in a brisk 23-minute first set.
The Norwegian battled back in the second, holding serve and keeping pace with his opponent’s repeated drop shots until Tsitsipas finally broke him with a shot down the line to take a 5-4 lead.
Tsitsipas finished off the one hour 14-minute match with an ace, his eighth of the day.
On Saturday, he’ll take on American qualifier Reilly Opelka, who edged No. 10 seed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain 6-3, 7-6(1) on Friday.
Tsitsipas and Opelka have only played once before on the ATP Tour, facing off at the Western & Southern Open last August. The American was up 6-5 in the first set when he bowed out with an injured knee, and Tsitsipas advanced to the semi-finals.
Daniil Medvedev of Russia, the top seed at this year’s National Bank Open, was scheduled to take on Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz, the No. 7 seed, in a quarter-final matchup later on Friday. American John Isner and No. 11 seed Gael Monfils of France were set to meet in the nightcap.
Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka, both of Belarus, kicked off the quarter-finals at the women’s tournament in Montreal on Friday, with the No. 1 seed Sabalenka taking a 6-2, 6-4 victory.
Sabalenka went down 4-2 in the second set before winning four games in a row, and had seven aces across the one hour 19-minute match.
The 23-year-old world No. 3 said she’s been working on staying focused throughout a match, no matter what’s happening on the court.
“I knew that even if I’m down with the score, I still can come back in the match,” she said. “These kind of thoughts help me be a bit more free on the court.”
For Azarenka, the tournament’s No. 8 seed, the difference across the match was minimal.
“I had some opportunities in that game. I didn’t take them,” she said. “I feel I just didn’t take my opportunities. It’s as simple as that.”
Sabalenka will play No. 4 seed Karolina Pliskova of the Czech Republic after she beat Spain’s Sara Sorribes Tormo 6-4, 6-0 on Friday.
The pair previously met in the semi-finals at Wimbledon last month, with Pliskova taking a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 victory.
“I would say that [on Saturday], I have to first of all serve well and secondly, I just have to use all these opportunities on her serve,” Sabalenka said.
Other quarter-final action at the National Bank Open Friday was set to pit Italy’s Camila Giorgi against No. 15 seed Cori Gauff of the U.S. Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur – who bested Canada’s Bianca Andreescu in third-round action on Thursday – was scheduled to face American qualifier Jessica Pegula in the final match of the day.
No Canadian singles players made it through to the tournament’s quarter-finals, but Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski and doubles partner Luisa Stefani of Brazil secured a spot in the semi-finals when they downed Sabalenka and Elise Mertens of Germany 6-2, 6-2 on Friday.
Dabrowski and Stefani, the No. 5 seeds, will take on Russia’s Veronika Kudermetova and Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan on Saturday. The match is set to be played in front of fans, the first time Dabrowski will see a crowd at this year’s tournament.
She’s hoping to give Canadian fans something to cheer for, but noted that various international players have brought out boisterous fans throughout the event.
“The one amazing thing about Canada is that we are so multicultural and so we have so many fans from all over the world,” Dabrowski said, noting the Tunisian fans who came out to support Jabeur on Thursday night. “I think that’s a beautiful thing that Canada has to offer.”