Rafael Nadal hits a shot against Fabio Fognini during their Rogers Cup match in Montreal on Friday. Reuters
Rafael Nadal needed a set to get adjusted before unloading on Fabio Fognini for a 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory and a place in the ATP Montreal Masters semi-finals.
Meanwhile, Serena Williams won her much-awaited rematch against Naomi Osaka on Friday, dominating the Japanese 6-3, 6-4 to ensure the loser won’t leave Toronto with a title to go with her number one world ranking.
Nadal, who won his fourth title in Canada a year ago, needed almost two hours on Friday to overcome the Italian veteran who shocked him on clay at Monte Carlo in April.
“It was an up-and-down match, but a positive match for me because I played better and better as it went on,” Nadal said.
“I lost the first set feeling that I was not playing badly. Things were just going too fast.
“Things happen quickly here because the court is fast. Sometimes in the first set, the player who is taking advantage has the adrenaline very high.
“It’s difficult to quickly stop that momentum.”
World number two Nadal was the only major seed to survive a quarter-final cull after defeats for Dominic Thiem and Alexander Zverev.
Number three Zverev was unable to make an impression on Russian sixth seed Karen Khachanov, losing 6-3, 6-3 in 74 minutes.
Zverev suffered the first blemish on what had been a perfect 7-0 record in Montreal after winning the 2017 edition in his maiden visit to the city, which alternates with Toronto as host venue each year.
Williams in her match against Osaka, fired 12 aces and didn’t face a break point as she beat the Japanese star for the first time in three meetings -- avenging her shock loss in last year’s controversial US Open final in which the American star was docked a point and a game after losing her temper when warned about coaching.
There was no such drama in Toronto, where Williams broke Osaka for a 5-3 lead in the first and closed out the opening set with a service winner.
She broke again for a 2-1 lead in the second and never looked like surrendering the advantage.
Even a run-in with the net cord -- as she raced forward trying to run down a drop shot -- didn’t faze her.
“It hurt, but it wasn’t the end of the world,” Williams said.
The American’s lone wobble came in the final game. After a pair of aces gave her a triple match point, Williams offered up a double fault and two backhands into the net before she closed it out with an ace on her fourth match point.
“We haven’t played since New York, which was a really good match for her,” said Williams, adding that she feels her own game is coming on as she’d hoped in the buildup to this year’s US Open at Flushing Meadows.
Despite the defeat, Osaka is assured of a return to world number one next week after the second-round exit of top-ranked Australian Ashleigh Barty and a quarter-final defeat for third-ranked Czech Karolina Pliskova.
Canadian teen Bianca Andreescu ousted Pliskova 6-0, 2-6, 6-4 after one hour and 49 minutes to doom the Czech’s bid to regain the top spot for the first time since 2017.
Andreescu advanced to a semi-final clash with American Sofia Kenin, who defeated Ukraine sixth seed Elina Svitolina 7-6 (7/2), 6-4.
In the semi-finals Williams will face Czech qualifier Marie Bouzkova, who advanced when Wimbledon champion Simona Halep retired with Achilles tendon trouble after dropping their first set 6-4.
Three-time Grand Slam champion Andy Murray said on Friday he will return to singles competition next week at the ATP Cincinnati Masters, seven months after having right hip surgery he feared might end his career.
The British star posted a photo of himself on his Facebook page on court while yelling with a clenched right fist and the caption: “That feeling when you accept a wildcard for the singles in Cinci... #LetsDoThis #HereWeGo.”
The 32-year-old Scotsman has fallen to 325th in the world rankings after his January operation to ease nagging hip pain.
His first match next week in Cincinnati in the final major tuneup for the US Open will be his first competitive singles outing since the Australian Open in January.