Rafa Completes Comeback To Reach Toronto Semis

World No. 1 rallies for three-set victory over Cilic

Marin Cilic had a firm grip on his quarter-final encounter against Rafael Nadal in Toronto. But Nadal did what he does best, turning in an impressive 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 comeback at the Rogers Cup on Friday.

With the victory, the top seed secured his place at the Nitto ATP Finals in London from 11-18 November. The first singles player to punch his ticket for the season finale at The O2, Nadal has now qualified for the 14th time.

The Spaniard was made to work to book his spot in the Rogers Cup semis for the sixth time and first since 2013. His Croatian opponent was in cruise control throughout the opening set, dominating proceedings with a hyper-aggressive, scorching display. It was peak Cilic on a picture perfect evening at the Aviva Centre. But the World No. 1 was up to the task, steadily building his own aggression and discovering his rhythm when he needed it most.

"It means a lot to me to be in the semi-finals," said Nadal. "It's because it was a very important match for me. Being in the semi-finals is great news at the start of the hard court season. And winning three good matches in the first Masters 1000 is so important for me."

Nadal continued his quest for an unprecedented 33rd title at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 level. He is a three-time champion in Canada, with victories in Montreal in 2005 and 2013 and in Toronto in 2008.

Cilic barely put a wrong foot in the 40-minute opening set, executing his game plan to perfection behind 17 winners. Nadal had no answer for his baseline blasts, which carried him to a double break lead. The Mallorca native would deny five set points while serving down 5-1, but a forehand winner sealed the opener with aplomb.

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But Nadal turned it around in a flash as the second set got underway. The bevy of set points saved was a mini victory that seemed to inject new life into the World No. 1. A late break at 5-4 would give him the set and force a decider, where he once again came up clutch. With Cilic serving to stay in the encounter, Nadal converted his third match point to prevail after two hours and 20 minutes.

"The way that he played in that first set was unstoppable," Nadal added. "So I resisted him. I play with the right tactics. I tried to find my solutions, but it was so difficult. The dynamic was very bad for me and unbelievable good for him. So I know that the beginning of the second set would be decisive.

"And then at 2-1, I had that break where he missed couple of balls and was the first time in the match that he made some mistakes. Maybe that was a key moment. And of course that last game of the second set that he was up 40/15, and he made two mistakes. So yeah."

Nadal found a way to win behind his trademark grit and determination, overcoming 38 Cilic winners. The Croatian, who was bidding to reach his fifth ATP World Tour Masters 1000 semi-final and first in Canada, suffered just his third defeat (25-3) when winning the opening set this year.

Making his first hard-court appearance since January, when he retired from his Australian Open quarter-final against Cilic due to injury, Nadal got his revenge in style. He extended his FedEx ATP Head2Head lead to 6-2, with five of his wins coming on hard. He has not lost to Cilic in a completed match since 2009 (Beijing).

Next up for Nadal is Russia's Karen Khachanov. He owns a 3-0 lead in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, but the 22-year-old will enter their semi-final meeting with a wave of momentum at his back, having not dropped a set all week in Toronto. Nadal has triumphed on all surfaces against Khachanov, winning on the grass of Wimbledon and hard courts of Beijing last year, as well as at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters earlier this year.

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Next up for Nadal is Russia's Karen Khachanov. He owns a 3-0 lead in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series, but the 22-year-old will enter their semi-final meeting with a wave of momentum at his back, having not dropped a set all week in Toronto. Nadal has triumphed on all surfaces against Khachanov, winning on the grass of Wimbledon and hard courts of Beijing last year, as well as at the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters earlier this year.

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