Rafael Nadal was able to gut out a 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-2) victory over rival Novak Djokovic on Saturday in the semifinals of the Rogers Cup in Montreal, to set up a title match on Sunday, and with the 2013 U.S. Open just weeks away.
Nadal advanced to play Canada’s Milos Raonic, who also needed three sets to outlast fellow countryman Vasek Pospisil 6-4, 1-6, 7-7 (7-4) earlier in the day, in the finals on Sunday.
The victory was a solid hard-court tune-up for Nadal with the last Grand Slam title of the year starting on Aug. 26. Many thought his stunning first round exit at Wimbledon meant his knee was bothering him once again, and signaled the end of his incredible season.
However, Nadal didn’t let a one-set lead and his failure to close out the world’s top-ranked player with a two-game lead in the final set affect him late. Nadal improved his record to 44-3 on the year.
Djokovic had won two consecutive tournaments in Montreal, but continued his struggles in the later rounds of tournaments this year. It was his fourth loss of the year in a quarterfinal, semifinal, or final. Seven double faults and 44 unforced errors eventually led to Djokovic's demise.
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Though his record fell to 39-7 on the year, Djokovic should still be considered a favorite at the U.S. Open, where he’s been to three consecutive finals since 2010.
It was the 36th career meeting between the two with Nadal upping his career record to 21-15. The duo equaled John McEnroe and Ivan Lendl for the most meetings between two players in the Open era.
A couple of the highlights, including Nadal inadvertanly hitting directly into Djokovic's face as well as the match's final point, are below.