Victoria Azarenka received a rare gift from world No. 1 Serena Williams, and Rafael Nadal felled giant John Isner in entertaining finals on Sunday at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Williams’ dominant hardcourt summer hit a speed bump in the Cincy final when in the third-set tiebreak she instead gift-wrapped the title for the world No. 2 from Belarus.
During an extended point late in the third-set tiebreak that saw Azarenka near the net tracking a ball that left a completely open court, Williams instead of bunting it into the open court guided a two-handed backhand long.
After the point Williams nearly slammed her racquet into the backstop. On the next point Williams threw in a nervous double fault, then on match point made an unforced error, a forehand into the net giving Azarenka the championship 2-6, 6-2, 7-6(6).
“I just felt really off this whole week, but I was surprised to be in the final and surprised to be doing well,” Williams said. “So I don’t know, there’s a few factors. I think what matters most was just fighting the whole time and survived to the end.”
It was the first time Azarenka beat a reigning world No. 1 since beating the younger Williams sister in Miami in 2009.
In the men’s final former world No. 1 Rafael Nadal beat John Isner at his own game, topping the American in two consecutive tiebreaks 7-6(8), 7-6(3) for his first Cincinnati title.
Nadal is now 15-0 on hardcourts in 2013, and along with Novak Djokovic is now the only player to win five Masters titles in one season. After winning in Montreal last week it is also the only time Nadal has won hardcourt titles in back-to-back weeks.
Nadal will now rise to the No. 2 ranking.
“It means a lot, being able to win two straight titles, two Masters 1000 on hard back to back is just amazing for me,” Nadal said. “I never did something like this in all my career. So it was an emotional moment for so many different facts.”
Isner fell to 2-2 in finals this year.
“I played extremely well all week,” Isner said. “Thought I played well again today. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t good enough. As I said on the court, [I'm] going to hold my head up high after today’s match and after this whole week. But Rafa was better than me today.”
The American will return to the Top 20 rankings on Monday.
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