Rafael Nadal won the 2013 Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati on Sunday, defeating John Isner in straight sets, 7-6 (8), 7-6 (3).
Rafael Nadal has won the Cincinnati Masters for the 1st time. He's beaten John Isner 7-6(8), 7-6(3)!— Live Tennis (@livetennis) August 18, 2013
This was Nadal’s first appearance in the finals of the Cincinnati Masters and his first victory in the event. Tennis Connected noted Nadal's proficiency on hard courts this year:
Nadal is a hard court specialist now too. Wins Cincy, his 26th Masters 1000 title and is undefeated on hard courts in 2013. Remarkable. #atp— Tennis Connected (@TennisConnected) August 18, 2013
TennisConnected.com also pointed out that Nadal will be the No. 2 player in the world in the latest rankings thanks to his victory over Isner.
The Spaniard won a hard-fought first set that took just over an hour to complete, overcoming eight aces and 27 winners from his American opponent by committing fewer mistakes.
Per TennisTV, Rafa committed just eight unforced errors compared to 19 by Isner:
Things didn’t get any easier for Nadal in the second set, as his 6’9” opponent made him work for every point and forced another tiebreaker before succumbing.
Perhaps most impressively, Nadal never had a chance at a break point during the entire match. Here are the rest of the stats from this showdown, courtesy of TennisTV:
The sun was a factor in this afternoon match, as the left-handed Nadal didn’t need to directly face it on his services. Isner, however, struggled with visibility issues due to the sun at various times during the match.
Sunday’s victory marks the first time in Nadal’s career that he has won back-to-back hard-court titles. The 27-year-old dominated Milos Raonic last week in the Rogers Cup finals and seems to be in peak form heading into the 2013 U.S. Open.
How will Rafa fare at the 2013 U.S. Open?
Rafa—known as the King of Clay for his dominance on the surface—is riding a 15-game hard-court winning streak into the year’s final Grand Slam event and looks like the player to beat.
Nadal has only won a major in New York once before, back in 2010 as the tournament’s No. 1 seed.
However, if he continues playing this well, there is no doubt he can win career Grand Slam No. 13 and push closer to rival Roger Federer’s record of 17.
Rafa knocked off Fed in an epic quarterfinals clash at the Western & Southern Open on Friday.
Along with Federer, there will certainly be strong competition from Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and the rest of the field, but Nadal could very well be the favorite when play begins at the 2013 U.S. Open in just over a week.