TORONTO — This time last year, Greek teenager Stefanos Tsitsipas had yet to record a victory on the ATP World Tour.
His breakthrough season reached another level Thursday when he stunned one of the sport’s biggest stars.
Tsitsipas upset Novak Djokovic 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-3 in third-round play at the Rogers Cup in a thrilling battle between one of the Tour’s top young guns and the reigning Wimbledon champion.
The 19-year-old Tsitsipas broke the ninth-seeded Serb early in the third set and held serve from there to reach his first career Masters 1000 quarterfinal.
Djokovic faded late against his flashy opponent, who played with poise and power on a warm, breezy afternoon at Aviva Centre. Tsitsipas set up match point with a scorching crosscourt winner before completing the victory in two hours 17 minutes.
Earlier, fifth-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov outlasted American Frances Tiafoe 7-6 (1), 3-6, 7-6 (4) and fourth-seeded South African Kevin Anderson topped qualifier Ilya Ivashka of Belarus 7-5, 6-3.
Denis Shapovalov of Richmond Hill, Ont., — the only Canadian player remaining in the tournament — was to face Robin Haase of the Netherlands on Thursday evening.
In late matches, top-seeded Rafael Nadal of Spain was to take on Swiss wild-card entry Stan Wawrinka and eighth-seeded American John Isner was to meet Russia’s Karen Khachanov.
Djokovic, a four-time Rogers Cup champion and former world No. 1, returned to the top 10 in mid-July after missing several months due to a right elbow injury.
His trademark retrieving skills were on display throughout the match but Tsitsipas used strong groundstrokes to push the pace and force Djokovic to fully stretch on several rallies.
The aggressive play led to defensive shots from his opponent and Tsitsipas often converted when he had chance.
He took advantage of a Djokovic unforced error for an early break at 4-2 and used a few 210 km/h serves to take the first set by holding at love.
Tsitsipas let a double-break point opportunity slip at 4-4 in the second set, eventually giving up the game after back-to-back shanks.
Djokovic went up a mini-break early in the tiebreaker but two straight challenges would go Tsitsipas’ way, each time by a whisker. However, the 31-year-old Serb converted his third set point.
With his long dark locks flowing behind a bright pink headband, Tsitsipas didn’t seemed fazed at all.
He held serve to open the third set and wrong-footed Djokovic after the veteran served at deuce, setting up an overhead smash and then a brilliant backhand winner for a 2-0 lead.
Djokovic, a 13-time Grand Slam champion, couldn’t claw back and eventually seemed resigned to the result, even smiling a few times in the final game.
Tsitsipas raised his arms and tossed his racket in the air after sealing the win. He’ll next face second-seeded defending champion Alexander Zverev of Germany, a 6-3, 6-2 winner over Russia’s Daniil Medvedev.
Djokovic had a quick break before returning to the doubles court with Anderson against French duo Pierre-Hugues Herbert and Nicolas Mahut.
Tsitsipas was ranked 168th in the world a year ago but has since rocketed into the No. 27 position.
The six-foot-four right-hander has reached the quarterfinals at seven Tour events and was a finalist at the Barcelona Open last April.
Play continues through Sunday at the US$5.94-million tournament on the York University campus.