Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece celebrates after his 6-1, 6-4 win over Norway's Casper Ruud in men’s National Bank Open tennis action in Toronto, Friday, Aug. 13, 2021 THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

Stefanos Tsitsipas cruises into National Bank Open semis with win over Casper Ruud

Stefanos Tsitsipas cruises into National Bank Open semis with win over Casper Ruud

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 semifinals 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 semifinals.

Daniil Medvedev of Russia, the top seed at this year’s National Bank Open, ousted Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz, the No. 7 seed, in a quarterfinal matchup later Friday. Medvedev took the match 2-6, 7-6 (6), 7-6 (5).

American John Isner topped No. 11 seed Gael Monfils of France 7-6 (5), 6-4 in the nightcap to set up a showdown with Medvedev.

Aryna Sabalenka and Victoria Azarenka, both of Belarus, kicked off the quarterfinals 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 semifinals 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.

Meanwhile, Italy’s Camila Giorgi topped No. 15 seed Coco Gauff of the U.S., 6-4, 7-6 (2). Giorgi will face American qualifier Jessica Pegula after she beat Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur, the No. 13 seed, 1-6, 7-6 (4), 6-0.

No Canadian singles players made it through to the tournament’s quarterfinals, but Ottawa’s Gabriela Dabrowski and doubles partner Luisa Stefani of Brazil secured a spot in the semifinals 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.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Aug. 13, 2021.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

Tennis