Rafael Nadal has defeated Milos Raonic by a score of 6-2, 6-2 to win the 2013 Rogers Cup. With the win, Nadal completes his return to the ATP Tour, recovering from injuries to reaffirm his status as one of the true elite.
More importantly, he becomes the favorite to win the 2013 U.S. Open.
Nadal is now 48-3 on the season, building that number on every type of surface. From his French Open title to the countless victories he's secured on other surfaces, we've seen the Spaniard improve his legacy by dominating the 2013 season.
His win at the 2013 Rogers Cup simply solidifies his status as the best player of the year.
With three separate players winning the Grand Slam events, Nadal now has a chance to return to the top of the mountain as the best in the world. Already piecing together the best win percentage amongst qualified players, Nadal is already in the midst of a season to remember.
All he needs now is a U.S. Open win.
Rafael Nadal hadn't been seen since Wimbledon, when he was one of five players ranked in the top 11 to lose in the second round or earlier. Since then, he's been nursing incessant injuries and preparing for the U.S. Open.
His performance at the Rogers Cup suggests he's ready.
Nadal began the tournament with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Jesse Levine and never turned back. He overcame a tough test from powerhouse and Wimbledon semifinalist Jerzy Janowicz by a count of 7-6, 6-4 and then cruised by Marinko Matosevic, 6-2, 6-4.
During the semifinals, Nadal defeated the most significant opponent of all—Novak Djokovic.
Nadal outlasted his rival with a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 victory, winning the final tiebreaker by a margin of 7-2. The Spaniard is now 2-1 against Djokovic—the two-time defending champion at the Rogers Cup—during the 2013 season.
That's what you call building momentum.
Heading into the 2013 U.S. Open, Nadal now has the statistical claim of being the best player in the world. Not only has he dominated 2013 like no one else, but he's also won the most significant event of the hard-court season leading up to the U.S. Open.
Now it comes down to padding his already legendary legacy.
Nadal is a genuine legend, owning numerous distinctions that separate him from the rest as a Hall of Fame superstar. From his record eight French Open titles to his becoming the seventh male player in tennis history to earn the career Grand Slam, he's done it all.
Now Nadal will compete for his second career U.S. Open title.
Many will stake the claim that Nadal's 12 Grand Slam titles are lopsided, but here are the facts: Nadal's four at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and U.S. Open are more than any active player not named Roger Federer or Novak Djokovic have in their entire career. Furthermore, four of Djokovic's six Grand Slam titles have come at the Australian Open.
If we're to use that logic for Nadal, it must be placed on all competitors, thus making Djokovic's success a moot point, as well.
Nadal has broken through on numerous stages, and with this in mind, it's hard to imagine his dreams of winning the 2013 U.S. Open as anything but legitimate. He's reached the U.S. Open Finals in each of his past two appearances and has every shred of momentum necessary to do it again.
The only question at this point is whether or not he can remain on his current path to glory.