World No. 3 Novak Djokovic ended No. 2 Rafael Nadal's 32-match winning streak with a 6-1, 7-5 semifinal victory over the Spaniard on Saturday night.
Nadal's loss means he will officially take over No. 1 for the first time in the South African Airways ATP Rankings on Aug. 18. Nadal could have taken over No. 1 on Monday if he won the title or on Aug. 11 by reaching the final.
The 21-year-old Djokovic advanced to his fifth final of the season and he will take on No. 8 seed Andy Murray in Sunday's championship. Djokovic is 3-1 in finals this season and 10-4 in his career. He is attempting to capture his fifth different ATP Masters Series shield in his sixth final. He leads the career series 4-1 against Murray although the Scot won last week in the quarterfinals at the Rogers Masters in Toronto.
Djokovic ended a three-match losing streak to Nadal and improved to 4-2 on hard courts against the left-hander from Mallorca. Overall, Nadal leads the career series 9-4.
"Well, nobody is unbeatable, obviously, but the way he was playing we all thought that he's not going to lose any time soon," said Djokovic. "I just tried not to think about his winning streak and his new ranking spot. Not official still. I tried just to focus on my game and I won against him three times before on this surface, and I know what it takes to win against him on hard courts. I got the best out of it in last couple of matches we played in this surface. I knew that I have to step in and be aggressive and take the chances that have been given me, so that what's did."
Djokovic jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the opening set before closing it out in 26 minutes. The Serb hit 11 winners to Nadal's two and won 16 of 20 points on his own serve in the first set. In the second set, Nadal's only break point came in the sixth game but Djokovic saved it. He broke Nadal in the 11th game at 15-40 and then served out the match, hitting a forehand volley winner on match point.
The difference in the one hour and 25 minute match came on second serve points won as Djokovic won 76 percent to Nadal's 47 percent. Djokovic converted three of four break points while Nadal never broke the Serb's serve.
It was Nadal's first loss in nearly three months since he fell to countryman Juan Carlos Ferrero in the opening round of ATP Masters Series Rome on May 7. Nadal will head into the upcoming Beijing Olympics with a 64-8 record on the season, including 30-7 on hard courts.
"I think he wants to be No. 1, too, no? But right now, first of all, I am not yet No. 1," said Nadal, when asked if Djokovic wanted to keep him from reaching No. 1 soon. "Second, I played a very good tournament here in Cincinnati, semifinal, and after winning in Toronto is almost perfect. So I played my best summer hard season in my life, so I am very happy for that. Today he played unbelievable in the first set. In the second, I felt well, in some moment I felt I was playing better than him. Finally, he beat me. He had the break at five-all. So I just congratulate him because he's playing well. You know how tennis is. Probably I wasn't at my 100% condition. During all this tournament I didn't play my best much. Today I think in the second set I played better than the days before, so happy for that because I end the tournaments with good feelings."