MONTREAL, Quebec: Rafael Nadal held off Novak Djokovic in three tense sets Saturday (Sunday in Manila) and will now try and stop Canadian Milos Raonic from making more tennis history at the Montreal Masters.
Fourth seed Nadal, champion in the event in 2005 and 2008, defeated top seed and two-time defending champion Djokovic 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7/2) to reach his 10th final of the season.
Raonic, meanwhile, became the first Canadian into the tournament’s final since 1958, when Robert Bedard won it.
Raonic booked his place with a 6-4, 1-6, 7-6 (4) victory over compatriot Vasek Pospisil, and with the win ensured he’ll be the first Canadian ever to reach the top 10 in the ATP world rankings.
Raonic will have his work cut out against Nadal. The Spaniard has won all three of their prior encounters, including two on hardcourts.
Nadal’s two-hour, 20-minute struggle with Djokovic was a tight affair, with small margins determining victory.
Nadal dominated the third-set tiebreaker, taking a 6-0 lead. Djokovic saved two match points before falling.
“I tried my best in the tiebreaker,” said Nadal, winner of seven titles this season. “I had to hit some fantastic shots to compete well against a big player like Novak. I’m very, very satisfied.”
Nadal let the second set slip as he lost the eighth game from a position of strength, letting go of a 40-0 lead to drop serve and trail 3-5.
Nadal has now won two of three meetings with world number one Djokovic this year, including a five-set thriller in the semi-finals of the French Open, just weeks after Djokovic had taken the Spaniard’s Monte Carlo crown in the final.
Djokovic’s defeat ended a 13-match win streak in Canada for the Serbian, who also won the title in 2007 before his back-to-back triumphs in 2011 and 2012.
Raonic was the winner in the first ATP semi-final between Canadians since Martin Wostenholme beat Andrew Sznajder in Rio de Janeiro 23 years ago.