WESTERN & SOUTHERN OPEN 2013
Nadal Topples Federer In Cincinnati
by Josh Meiseles|
Rafael Nadal has come back to defeat Roger Federer 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 in their blockbuster quarter-final duel under the lights in Cincinnati. It was their 31st encounter, one of their very best, and one that ended in dramatic fashion on Nadal's fifth match point.
Nadal, last week’s champion in Montreal, extended his winning streak on hard courts in 2013 to 13-0 with the win. He has moved one step closer to claiming his fifth ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown of the year, a feat he has yet to accomplish in his storied career. Federer, meanwhile, was denied his first Masters 1000 title since hoisting the trophy here last year. The quarter-final was his 60th at the Masters 1000 level.
With Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray losing earlier in the day, Nadal is further closing in on them in the battle for the year-end World No. 1. He has already won 1500 Emirates ATP Rankings points this year, the most on the ATP World Tour.
Federer captured the first set 7-5, pouncing on a late break point at 5-5 30/40. Nadal, however, battled back with a late break of his own, converting on his second set point with a forehand down-the-line.
Federer had executed a highly aggressive game plan early on, which included topping many backhand returns rather than engaging his customary slice, and attacking the net with authority. Nadal turned the tables late in the second set, anticipating his intentions and employing a highly efficient brand of tennis from the baseline. Federer’s unforced error count would rise to 44 as Nadal continued to apply pressure on his serve with deep angled returns with significant pace.
Nadal took an immediate lead in the third set, breaking for 2-0 and holding serve from there to the finish line. In a dramatic final game, Federer rallied from 0/40 and eventually saved four match points before Nadal rifled a forehand down the line to end the match. The Hawkeye replay, shown only on television, revealed that his shot had missed by the narrowest of margins, but only after he had shaken hands with Federer, who did not challenge.
"I'm happy with my progress along the way," Federer said. "Could have won tonight, should have won tonight, who knows? But at the end, I think Rafa's confidence and the way he's playing at the moment got him through. So for me, I think it was a good step in the right direction."
Nadal was pleased with his mid-match adjustments. "I think my movement starts to be better, more intensity. I started to put more balls inside on the return, and I started to have more times control of the ball from the baseline with my forehand, something that didn't happen the first set and a half...But the match was there. It was very close. He had a good chance in the second. I think I played a good few points in important moments."
The Spaniard has improved to an impressive 12-1 in decisive sets on the year and 14-1 against Top 10 opponents. Nadal is off to a career-best start with a 51-3 match record and eight ATP World Tour titles.
Nadal is on the precipice of a 37th Masters 1000 final, with a semi-final encounter against Tomas Berdych coming on Saturday. Berdych has won just two sets in the last 13 matches of their rivalry, which Nadal leads 14-3.