Stefanos Tsitsipas reached his very first ATP Masters 1000 semi-final on hard-courts at the National Bank Open Presented by Rogers in 2018. Will he reach another one on Friday, or will Casper Ruud send a message of intent to the rest of the field with an upset? 

The 23-year-old Greek and the 22-year-old Norwegian are both contenders in the FedEx Race To Turin, with Tsitsipas sitting in second position and Ruud occupying eighth place. But while both players have recorded big results on hard courts, it’s been their clay-court achievements that have caught the attention in 2021. 

Ruud will come into the matchup with a 1-0 ATP Head2Head lead over World No. 3 Tsitsipas after defeating him in straight sets on the clay courts of Madrid. He is on a 12-match winning streak after winning three consecutive clay-court titles, but the Norwegian is eager to prove he is more than a one-surface threat.

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After his win over Dusan Lajovic, Ruud signed the camera with the words ‘Hard Court’ and a smiley face – sending a message to the rest of the field that he means business in Toronto.

“I have seen a lot of people probably questioning my ability to play on hard court, so just thought it was funny to write a little note,” Ruud said after the match.

“Even though I played most of my best results on clay, my best Slam result is from this year’s Australian Open [fourth round]. I think it’s a surface that also can suit my game well, even though this year has been mainly clay, clay, clay all the year. I’m motivated to come back to the hard courts.”

Tsitsipas reached his first Grand Slam final at Roland Garros (l. to Djokovic) and won his first ATP Masters 1000 at Monte-Carlo earlier in the season. But the Greek player’s hard-court resume is nothing to scoff at: he won four of his seven titles on the surface, including the biggest of his career at the 2019 Nitto ATP Finals. He is seeking his seventh ATP Masters 1000 semi-final – and his fourth on hard courts – in Toronto.

The winner of Tsitsipas and Ruud will next face either 10th seed Roberto Bautista Agut or Reilly Opelka. The Spaniard, who edged past Diego Schwartzman in the previous round, owns a 2-1 Head2Head record over the American, who defeated Lloyd Harris in three sets.

Also in action, John Isner will aim to continue his red-hot momentum as he faces the resurgent Gael Monfils for the 13th time in their careers. Monfils won back-to-back matches for the first time all year to reach his first quarter-final since February of 2020, while Isner is seeking to extend an eight-match winning streak that includes his sixth Truist Atlanta Open title. 

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Top seed Daniil Medvedev will take on seventh seed Hubert Hurkacz for a place in the semi-finals. The Russian was runner-up to Rafael Nadal in Montreal in 2019, and he will be aiming to do one better as he seeks his fourth ATP Masters 1000 title in Toronto. Medvedev will be out for revenge against the Pole after he lost a five-set match in the fourth round at Wimbledon this year in the pair’s only prior ATP Head2Head meeting.

Click here for the full Day 5 order of play



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