Canada Flashback: Rafael Nadal topples Milos Raonic and wins third title

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Canada Flashback: Rafael Nadal topples Milos Raonic and wins third title

Rafael Nadal played only 48 matches in 2012 and missed the second part due to a left knee injury. The Spaniard returned more decisive 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. Nadal returned to action in February and 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, entering only the second ATP event on the fast surface after Miami 2012 and continuing where he left in Indian Wells, going all the way to claim the season's eighth title and the fourth at the Masters 1000 level.

In the second round, Rafa lost just two games against Jesse Levine and battled past Jerzy Janowicz in two sets to reach the quarter-final. Marinko Matosevic stood no chance against the Spaniard, 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 and 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 on serve and fending off all three break points to mount the pressure on the other side of the net.

Serving at only 50%, the Canadian had to play without his biggest shot and free points, standing powerless against the Spaniard in the more extended rallies and losing ground in those up to four strokes to settle for the runner-up spot.

In Montreal, Rafael Nadal claimed the fourth Masters 1000 title in 2013.

Rafa never put a foot wrong during the 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.

Raonic barely hit any winner while Nadal stayed away from unforced errors, imposing his strokes and taming 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 of those in the rest of the encounter and chances on the return.

Rafa 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 and took five straight points on the return to force Milos' volley error in the next game to increase the lead after just over 20 minutes.

Hold at love delivered another easy game for Rafa, who sealed the opener with three service winners at 5-2 in 32 minutes. 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 thanks to a service winner, something we should have seen from his opponent more often.

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 all before holding with an ace to get the game home and secure an even more significant boost following a hold at 15 at 3-2.

Raonic could do nothing after those break chances he squandered and sprayed a forehand mistake to suffer another break and push Nadal 5-2 in front. The Spaniard held at 15 a few minutes later to celebrate the title and kick off a historic North American summer that would lead him towards all three big titles.