Canada Flashback: Rafael Nadal wins third title against Milos Raonic
Rafael Nadal played only 48 matches in 2012 and missed the second part due to a left knee injury. The Spaniard returned motivated to reach the top again in 2013 and delivered one of his career-best performances. Rafa lifted ten ATP titles from 14 finals and finished the season as the year-end no. 1 for the first time since 2010. Nadal missed the Australian Open and started his campaign on clay. He conquered Sao Paulo, Acapulco, Indian Wells, Barcelona, Madrid, Rome and Roland Garros before a surprising loss in the Wimbledon opening round to Steve Darcis in straight sets. It was time for hard court and Montreal, Rafa's second hard-court ATP event after Miami 2012. The Spaniard continued where he left in Indian Wells and claimed the season's eighth title and the fourth at the Masters 1000 level! Rafa lost just two games against Jesse Levine in the second round for a promising start. He battled past Jerzy Janowicz in two sets to reach the quarter-final and toppled Marinko Matosevic to enter the last four. Nadal faced an ultimate challenge in Novak Djokovic, and two great rivals turned it into a memorable one. Rafa toppled world no. 1 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 in two hours and 29 minutes 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 lift the trophy. It was the first final at this level for the 22-year-old Canadian, who spent over four and a half hours on the court in the previous two days and had 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 behind the initial shot and fending off all three break points. The pressure was on Raonic, and he could not endure it after serving at only 50%. Without free points in his arsenal, Milos stood powerless against Rafa in front of the home fans and settled for the runner-up prize. The Spaniard had a massive advantage in the more extended rallies and overpowered the opponent in the shortest ones to seal the deal in style. Rafael Nadal claimed the fourth Masters 1000 title of 2013 in Montreal. Rafa never put a foot wrong during the final. He stole almost half of the return points and converted all four break chances to control the scoreboard and march towards the finish line in no time. Raonic barely hit any winners while Nadal stayed away from unforced errors, imposing his strokes and taming his rival's initial shot to gain the crucial advantage. Milos held at 15 in the first game with a 237 km/h serve, hoping for more in the rest of the encounter. Nadal held with an ace in game two and seized a break opportunity in the next one when Raonic sent a forehand long. The Spaniard confirmed the advantage with another comfortable hold that sent him 3-1 up. He took five straight points on the return in the next one to force Milos' volley error and increase the lead after just over 20 minutes. A hold at love delivered another easy game for Rafa, and he sealed the opener with three service winners at 5-2 in 32 minutes. Unable to pass Nadal with the initial shot, Raonic hit a double fault at the beginning of the second set to find himself a set and a break down. Rafa fired a service winner to open a 2-0 gap and move closer to the finish line. The Canadian finally gave his crowd something to cheer about after creating three break points in the fourth game that could have brought him back into contention. Rafa stayed calm and erased them before holding with an ace to get the game home and secure an even more significant boost. Raonic could not do anything after those break chances, and he sprayed a forehand mistake to suffer another break and push Nadal 5-2 in front. The Spaniard served for the title in game eight and held at 15 to celebrate the title and kick off a historic North American summer.