PARIS — Missed break point opportunities and a poor start in a second-set tiebreaker proved costly for Canada’s Milos Raonic on Saturday at the Paris Masters.
Raonic, who has never won a Masters event, dropped a 6-4, 7-6 (4) decision to Daniil Medvedev, who will face Alexander Zverev in Sunday’s final. Zverev advanced with a 6-4, 7-5 win over top-seeded Rafael Nadal.
The 10th-seeded Raonic, from Thornhill, Ont., missed out on a second final appearance here after losing to Novak Djokovic in 2014.
Medvedev saved three break points at 0-40 down in the eighth game of the second set, but Raonic finally broke him on his fourth break point in the 12th game to make it 6-6. However, Medvedev raced to a 4-0 lead in the tiebreaker and sealed the victory on his first match point.
"I think in some key moments he found a way to be a bit more the aggressor. He was dictating a bit more, I was trying to change the pace up," Raonic said. "He was a lot more efficient at creating his opportunities."
The Canadian had 12 aces compared to seven for Medvedev and both players won around 80 per cent of their points on first serves.
"I don’t think it was the best tennis I have played this year, but it was definitely one of the best matches," Medvedev said. "I was playing good in the beginning of the year, and then there was a stop (because of the pandemic)."
Zverev, meanwhile, denied Nadal the chance to win a tournament that continues to elude him. Zverev has a 5-1 edge on Medvedev in career head-to-head meetings.
Zverev will go for his fourth Masters title and 14th overall, while 2019 U.S. Open runner-up Medvedev is seeking his third Masters crown, eighth career title and first of this year.
"We’re not going to give each other anything tomorrow and we’ll see who can win. I’m looking forward to it," Zverev said. "I think we are both extremely hungry, it will be our first title here."
Although Nadal has won 86 titles in his glittering career, including a record-equalling 20 Grand Slams and 35 Masters events, he lost his only final here in 2007 to David Nalbandian.
Serving for the match at an empty Bercy Arena because of the coronavirus pandemic, the imposing Zverev opened with his 13th ace.
He double-faulted on his first match point at 40-0. But on the next one, Nadal’s forehand down the line went wide to give the 23-year-old German only his second win in seven matches against the Spanish veteran.
"I have just beaten Rafa, so that is never easy to do," Zverev said. "I think the whole world will agree with me on that."
Nadal was broken to love in the third game and dropped the opening set for the third time in his four matches. Zverev won 78 per cent of points on first serve compared to 60 per cent for Nadal and led 9-1 in aces in that set. He clinched it with a sliced shot at the net which Nadal could not reach.
"He’s in the final serving huge. I think I returned better than the other days, but was impossible at the beginning. He was serving bombs and hitting the right spots all the time," Nadal said. "So I decided to go eight meters behind the baseline later on in the match and I think worked better for me."
Zverev broke Nadal again in the third game of the second set.
A frustrated Nadal punched his racket head when he failed to convert two break points in the sixth game, but held his nerve to save four break points in the next game and then finally broke Zverev to make it 4-4.
But an erratic and agitated Nadal was conceding too many chances on his serve and, after Zverev broke him for a third time, he sat shaking his head during the changeover.
In doubles play, Montreal’s Felix Auger-Aliassime teamed with Poland’s Hubert Hurkacz for a 6-2, 1-6, 10-5 semifinal win over Poland’s Lukasz Kubot and Brazil’s Marcelo Melo.
They will face Brazil’s Bruno Soares and Croatia’s Mate Pavic in Sunday’s final. They beat Austria’s Jurgen Melzer and Edouard Roger-Vasselin 6-3, 7-6 (4) in the other semifinal.