Originally posted on Fox Sports Ohio  |  By KEVIN GOHEEN  |  Last updated 8/18/13
MASON, Ohio Rafael Nadal accomplished new feats, while Serena Williams and Victoria Azarenka replayed their dramatic final from last years U.S. Open with one major plot twist on Sunday in the championship matches at the Western & Southern Open. Second-ranked Azarenka rallied from a dominating 26-minute loss in the first set against Williams to take her first championship in Cincinnati, 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (6) against the top-ranked women in the world. Nadal also won in Cincinnati for the first time in his career, beating John Isner in straight sets 7-6 (8), 7-6 (3) to capture his second consecutive hard court title in as many weeks. He had never done that before, but despite not even getting a single break point chance against Isners serve he pulled off multiple career firsts. For both, its the best possible way to be playing with the start of the U.S. Open one week away. Its all about really turning it around and wanting to turn it around and thats what I did, said Azarenka. It was very intense throughout the whole match. Williams beat Azarenka 6-2, 2-6, 7-5 in last years U.S. Open championship, rallying from a 3-5 deficit in the third set to win her fourth title in New York. The pair split the first two sets on Sunday and, again, Williams rallied from being down a service break in the third set. Azarenka led 4-2 when Williams broke her twice in winning three straight games to take a 5-4 advantage and give herself a chance to serve for the match. Azarenka broke back to even the set, 5-5, and the two eventually went to a tiebreaker. There were three ties and three lead changes in the tiebreaker before Williams hit a return into the net to give Azarenka an 8-6 win in the tiebreaker and just her third victory against Williams in 15 matches. I didnt think about (last year), I was just really focused on what I had to do in that particular moment, said Azarenka. I was just trying to stay focused on one shot at a time. Thats what helps me to stay focused because if Im thinking too much ahead then Im rushing. Its important to keep my focus on my execution. Williams was coming off a win last week in Toronto at the Rogers Cup and has won eight tournaments this year. The French Open is her one Grand Slam title this year, so she takes the other tournaments on the tour seriously, as well. Theyre not only tune-ups but they give some matches and theyre a great gauge on how youre going to play and how its going to be, said Williams. Its really important and its something I look forward to just be consistent in. Nadal wasnt thinking ahead to the fourth and final Grand Slam event of the year, which begins on Aug. 26. He was too busy relishing in the moment. For me, it was the perfect preparation for the U.S. Open, said Nadal. I dont like to talk about the U.S. Open when we are in Cincinnati or when we are in Montreal. These tournaments dont deserve to be preparation for others. Masters 1000 are one of the most important tournaments of the season. If you ask me which way you want to enter the U.S. Open, I will tell you thats the perfect way to enter the U.S. Open. But that doesnt mean that Im going to play a great U.S. Open. The only thing it really means is I was playing great during these two weeks. This weeks tournament set four attendance records: total weekly attendance (186,501), 13 sessions sold out (including 11 straight to end week), single day (25,155 on Thursday) and single session (13,704 on Wednesday day). It means a lot being able to win two straight titles, two straight Masters 1000 on hard (courts) back-to-back. Its just amazing for me, said Nadal, who now has 26h ATP Masters 1000 tournament victories to his credit. I never did something like this in all my career. So it was an emotional moment for so many different facts. Nadal was seeded fourth here, the same as his ATP ranking, but he will jump to No. 2 in the rankings on Monday, behind only Novak Djokovic. Isner will jump from No. 22 in the rankings to No. 14 after reaching the finals here. He beat three straight top-10 opponents, including Djokovic in the quarterfinals, and is 16-4 this summer. He has reached the finals of three tournaments, winning in Atlanta and losing to Juan Martin del Potro, whom he beat in Saturday's semifinals, in Washington. He lost in the first round at Montreal the week before coming to Cincinnati. As opposed to the womens final, which featured five breaks of serve by both Azarenka and Williams and 25 break point chances, there were just three break point chances between Nadal and Isner. All belonged to Isner but he couldnt come up with the one shot when he needed it to give him a leg up on Nadal. I played extremely well all week, said Isner. I thought I played well again today. Unfortunately it just wasnt good enough. Im going to hold my head up high after todays match and after this whole week. But Rafa was better than me today.
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