In one of the most competitive matches of the 2013 Rogers Cup, No. 4 seed Rafael Nadal defeated Jerzy Janowicz by a count of 7-6, 6-4. With the straight-sets victory, Nadal will move on to the quarterfinals, where he will face Marinko Matosevic of Australia.
With the win, Nadal proves his return to the ranks of the elite.
It wasn't easy for Nadal, as he nearly lost the first set to the 6'8" powerhouse from Poland. Not only did they go to a tiebreaker, but Nadal also escaped the first set, 7-6, by winning the final game by a count of 8-6.
Is Rafael Nadal officially back?
That's as tight as it comes.
With a quarterfinals clash with Matosevic looming, Nadal has a more than favorable path to the semifinals of the prestigious event. With the U.S. Open just around the corner, the Spaniard can use this opportunity to build momentum as he competes for his second career title at Arthur Ashe Stadium.
This was certainly a step in the right direction.
For a player with a long history of knee injuries, the two most taxing opponents are those with extraordinary power and the select few who can move the opposition along the baseline. That's exactly the classification Janowicz falls into.
A player with a deep serve and a powerful forehand stroke, Janowicz is the type of player who can be expected to push Nadal to his limits.
That's exactly what happened, but in the face of adversity, the 12-time major champion bounced back in impressive fashion. He displayed resiliency, fought back in the face of adversity and did one thing that stood out above all else.
Nadal played without any concern for his knees.
Watching replay of Jerzy-Nadal and Rafa not wearing anything on the knees. Interesting...— Howard Bryant (@hbryant42) August 9, 2013
If Nadal can make a full recovery, we may have a familiar face return to the No. 1 ranking in the world.
Nadal has battled knee injuries in recent years, which has limited his availability to the point where he missed the 2012 U.S. Open and 2013 Australian Open. When healthy, Nadal has made the finals in nine of his past 12 Grand Slam event appearances.
He's won six of those events, including the 2010 U.S. Open.
Assuming Nadal maintains his good health over the next three weeks, he will be one of the top contenders at this year's event. If he's unable to, the decorated champion will struggle to compete on the hard-court surface.
Something tells us the former will occur before the latter.
Nadal is one of seven men's singles players to achieve the career Grand Slam, achieving the feat at the age of 24. While many target the feat as something they'll one day accomplish, Nadal has been building upon his greatness for years.
Consider this victory over Janowicz a major step toward achieving a second career Grand Slam.