Playing only 48 matches in 2012 and missing the second part of the season due to a left knee injury, Rafael Nadal bounced back stronger in 2013 for one of his career-best performances, winning ten titles from 14 finals and finishing the season as the year-end no.
1 player. Returning in February in Vina del Mar, Nadal conquered Sao Paulo, Acapulco, Indian Wells, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros before a surprising loss in the opening round at Wimbledon to Steve Darcis in straight sets.
It was time for hard court and Montreal, entering only the second ATP event on the fast surface after Miami 2012 and continuing where he left at Indian Wells, going all the way to claim already the eighth title of the season and the fourth at the Masters 1000 level.
Rafa lost just two games against Jesse Levine in the second round, battling past Jerzy Janowicz in two sets to reach the quarter-final where Marinko Matosevic stood no chance, sending Rafa into the semis where he faced an ultimate challenge in Novak Djokovic.
After two hours and 29 minutes, Rafa toppled world no. 1 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 to advance into the final for the first time in five years. On August 11, Nadal defeated the home favorite Milos Raonic 6-2, 6-2 in 68 minutes for the 25th Masters 1000 crown, dominating from start to finish to leave Milos far behind.
It was the first final at this level for the 22-year-old Canadian, spending more than four and a half hours on the court in the previous two days and having nothing left in the tank for such a strong rival. Facing each other for the fourth time, Nadal claimed the fourth straight-sets victory, dropping seven points on serve and fending off all three break points to mount the pressure on the other side of the net, something that Milos couldn’t endure on that day.
Serving at only 50%, the Canadian had to play without his biggest shot and free points from serve alone, standing powerless against the Spaniard in the more extended rallies and losing ground in those up to four strokes as well to settle for the runner-up spot.
Rafa never put a foot wrong during the entire final, stealing almost half of the return points and converting all four break chances to control the scoreboard and march towards the finish line in no time at all for the most one-sided final here in ten years.
Raonic barely hit any winner while Nadal stayed away from unforced errors, imposing his shots and taming rival’s initial shot to gain the crucial advantage on the court. Milos held at 15 in the first game with a 237 km/h serve, hoping for more of those in the rest of the encounter and some chances on the return.
Rafa held with an ace as well in game two, creating an opportunity in the next game and seizing the first break when Raonic sent a forehand long to grab the lead. The Spaniard confirmed the advantage with another comfortable hold that sent him 3-1 up, taking five straight points on the return to force a volley error from Milos in the next game and increase the lead to a double break after just over 20 minutes.
Hold at love delivered another easy game for Rafa who sealed the opener with three service winners in game eight for a 6-2 in 32 minutes, looking rock-solid and determined to repeat the same in set number two. Unable to pass Nadal with the initial shot, Milos hit a double fault at the beginning of the second set to find himself a set and a break down, with Nadal moving 2-0 up with a service winner, something we should have seen from Milos.
The Canadian finally gave his crowd something to cheer about, creating three break points in the fourth game that could have brought him back into contention in the second set. Rafa stayed calm to erase them all, two with winners, holding with an ace to bring the game home and secure even more significant boost and move 4-2 up with a hold at 15 in game six.
There was nothing Raonic could do after those break chances he squandered, spraying a forehand error to suffer another break and push Rafa 5-2 in front, with the Spaniard holding at 15 a few minutes later to celebrate the title and kick off a historic North American summer that led him towards all three big titles, lifting the trophies in Cincinnati and the US Open to remain unbeaten on hard courts that season.