By Erwin Ong
CINCINNATI – For Rafael Nadal, something has finally clicked. In his eight years of playing the Western & Southern Open, the Spaniard had never advanced past the semifinals. That changed on Saturday when he took on sixth seed Tomas Berdych in the second men’s semi of the day, beating the Czech 7-5, 7-6(4).
"I am having the right feelings on court," said Nadal about this newfound success in Cincinnati. "I'm playing aggressive, and the crowd here is great."
In the first set, both Nadal and Berdych held serve until the 11th game, when Nadal converted the only break point of the set, winning it 7-5. The men traded breaks in the second, and headed to a tiebreak to decide the match. Nadal clinched the match on his first match point, winning the tiebreak 7-6(5).
Sunday’s matches at the Lindner Family Tennis Center include finals for all four contested events – singles and doubles for both men’s and women’s draws. Nadal’s opponent will be John Isner, who advanced earlier on Sunday with an upset win over Juan Martin del Potro.
Rafael Nadal is competing for his 26th career Masters Series title. The unseeded Isner is looking to be the first American to win the Cincinnati title since Andy Roddick did so in 2006.
The women’s final will feature a face-off between top seed Serena Williams and second seed Victoria Azarenka.
Williams survived a tough 7-5, 7-5 battle against Li Na, trading multiple service breaks with her Chinese opponent in both sets. With this victory, Serena earned the 2013 Emirates U.S. Open Series title – awarded to the player with the best cumulative performance at the hard court events leading up to the U.S. Open – giving her the opportunity for an extra $1 million if she wins the U.S. Open.
Williams has won the Emirates U.S. Open Series twice. "It's always exciting to win the [Series], especially being from America and playing all the tournaments in the U.S.A., especially tonight," gushed Williams after her win. "There was so much support out there."
The final match of Saturday evening -- the semifinal between second seed Victoria Azarenka and 14th seed Jelena Jankovic -- featured hard-hitting points that sent both players from side to side along the baseline. Azarenka won the match 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
Williams has a 12-2 record against Azarenka, including the epic three-set final at last year’s U.S. Open. Like Serena, the World No. 2 Azarenka is also competing in her first final at the Western & Southern Open.
In men’s doubles, the World No. 1 team of Mike and Bob Bryan defeated compatriot Scott Lipsky and Lipsky’s teammate, Santiago Gonzalez, 4-6, 7-6(6) [10-6] in the second men’s semifinal. The Bryans were down match point in the second-set tiebreaker but edged out a victory. The twins, seeded first at this event, will face the second seeds Marcel Granollers and Marc Lopez in the final. The Bryans are looking to win their fourth title here in Cincinnati.
The women’s doubles final, which precedes the men’s, will feature Anna-Lena Groenefeld of Germany with Kveta Peschke of the Czech Republic playing against Su-Wei Hsieh of Chinese Taipei and Peng Shuai of China.