Future rivalry, familiar faces fill quarterfinal field

Thursday, Aug 9

Are we witnessing the early chapters of what could be the great next rivalry in men’s tennis?

Friday is quarter-final day at Rogers Cup presented by National Bank, and while there are plenty of familiar faces – Rafael Nadal, Grigor Dimitrov, Marin Cilic, anyone? – Stefanos Tsitsipas is the new kid in the tennis town.

And he’s an absolute joy to watch.

Already the most successful Greek man in tennis history, the 19-year-old scored what you can call the biggest win of his career with a three-set thriller over four-time champion here Novak Djokovic on Thursday, setting up a showdown with defending Rogers Cup champion Alexander Zverev.

They met in the semifinals last week in Washington, D.C., where the 21-year-old German prevailed in straight sets and eventually went on to win the title there.

But can Tsitsipas continue his own hot streak in Canada, which also includes a win over No.7 seed Dominic Thiem?

He’ll certainly try.

What makes both of these players so dangerous, so dynamic, and so fun to watch is the way that they move about the court. They’re both pure athletes – which is something we’re now used to with the world No.3 Zverev – but Tsitsipas has made a habit of throwing himself (literally) all over the court. In a good way.

We could be in for a blockbuster. Oh – and just wondering – who do you think has the better hair?

While Zverev-Tsitsipas anchors the bottom half of the draw on Friday afternoon, the day will be started between Dimitrov and Wimbledon finalist Kevin Anderson, who are playing for an eighth time, Dimitrov leading their head-to-head 6-1.

Both have survived close calls this week, but Dimitrov has done it twice, first in a third-set tiebreak against Fernando Verdasco and then in nearly identical fashion over American Frances Tiafoe on Thursday.

Anderson also remains in the doubles. He’s playing alongside Djokovic this week and they’ll be on Grandstand later in the afternoon following his singles having upset the No.3 seeds and defending champions Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut to get into the quarterfinals.

Though he hadn’t played a hard court match since January, World No.1 Rafael Nadal has picked up where he left off in Melbourne here in Toronto, scoring wins over Benoit Paire and then fellow Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka late last night in one of the matches of the tournament.

The Spaniard, who has won Rogers Cup three times, meets another major champion in Cilic for a spot in the final four, where Nadal hasn’t been since 2013 – the last time he won here.

The 2014 US Open champ Cilic has wins over Borna Coric and Diego Schwartzman to his name en route to the final eight.

The fourth and final quarter-final is one made up of unexpected names in Robin Haase and Karen Khachanov. Haase, who made the semifinals last year in Montreal, dashed Canadian hopes on Thursday night with a victory over a flat and frustrated Denis Shapovalov.

At 31, Haase is a veteran who plays an all-court game. His foe Friday night is 22-year-old Russian Karen Khachanov, who has beaten seeds Pablo Carreno Busta and John Isner this week. Khachanov plays the kind of tennis where he tries to take the cover off the ball with every stroke. There’s little nuance – and that makes their meeting that much more intriguing.

We’re in for a day of intrigue, actually: Four quarterfinals for four spots in the semifinals. Ready? Play.