- ATP Western & Southern Open
Nadal captures Cincinnati crown
Rafael Nadal lifted the Western & Southern Open for the first time in his career after overcoming John Isner 7-6(8) 7-6(3) in the final in Cincinnati.
The Spaniard after winning the Rogers Cup in Montreal a week ago has now won back-to-back hard court events for the first time as well, and in taking the title in Cincinnati has equalled the feat of Novak Djokovic of two years ago by triumphing at five Masters 1000 events in a season.
Nadal heads into the final grand slam of the year at the US Open unbeaten on a hard court, and will be one of the favourites to emerge victorious given his form and now climbing to second and above Andy Murray in the world rankings.
Since making his return to the circuit in February after eight months out with a knee injury, Nadal is playing stronger than before as he wins his ninth title of the year and continues his career-best start to a season by clocking up his 53rd win.
The eight-time French Open champion had his work cut out though throughout the encounter, as Isner, playing in his second Masters final, proved to be a tricky customer with the enormous serve he possesses.
After taking out three top-10 players in the shape of Milos Raonic, Juan Martin del Potro and spectacularly world No. 1 Novak Djokovic in the quarter-finals, Isner was full of confidence, and forced Nadal to hold his serve to stay with him in the opening set.
With Isner 6-5 in front, the American had two set points to take one step towards a maiden Masters crown, but Nadal was able to save both of them by playing the right shots at the right time.
A third set point came the way of Isner in the tiebreak, but like he had done previously, Nadal recovered to take the set 10 points to eight.
And the second set followed the pattern of the first, with Isner difficult to break down on serve and Nadal staying with him.
So, a tiebreak was needed once again, but unlike the first set it was rather one-sided as Nadal raised his level, and with it sealed the triumph with a trademark forehand winner down the line.