In 2005, Rafael Nadal became a Major and Masters 1000 champion, winning 11 titles and surpassing everyone on the ATP ranking list except Roger Federer. In 2006 and 2007, Nadal remained the second-strongest link on the Tour, improving his game on clay and reaching two Wimbledon finals.
Ready to challenge Roger for the ATP throne, Nadal got off to a solid start to the 2008 season and exploded once it was clay’s turn. Between Monte Carlo and Toronto, the Spaniard would go on to win seven titles in eight tournaments, including two Majors and three Masters 1000s that brought him closer than ever to Roger Federer.
Two weeks after that epic Wimbledon final, Rafa embraced the Canadian Open campaign, seeking his first title at this event since 2005. The Spaniard beat Jesse Levine, Igor Andreev, Richard Gasquet and Andy Murray to reach the final, with great chances of getting the title.
Two years before retiring, Nicolas Kiefer advanced to his first Masters 1000 title matchup after beating Mardy Fish, Mikhail Youzhny, Nikolay Davydenko, James Blake and Gilles Simon. The German battled for three hours against Simon in the semi-finals.
There wasn’t much left in the tank for a fit Nadal, who beat him 6-3, 6-2 in an hour and a half. Rafa lost 14 points in eight service games and rejected the three break chances he had to put pressure on the opponent. Kiefer barely dropped a point on the first serve, but served just 47% to plague his chances.
He struggled on the second serve and got broken four times from as many chances offered by Nadal. The Spaniard controlled his punches well and had a big advantage in the longer exchanges. He took 19 of 22 to forge victory and move past Pete Sampras, who has won 11 Masters 1000 titles.
Nadal got a break at 15 at 2-2 in the first game and held it with ease to confirm the lead and establish a good rhythm. The youngster closed out the eighth game with an ace and racked up four straight points on the return in the next to take the first set 6-3.
Rafa Nadal has not shone with Cincy
American teenager Ben Shelton is the latest player to speak out about his admiration for Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. “He definitely looked up to Federer. Nadal is the clear choice because I am also left-handed.
I liked the class of Fed, the aura that surrounds him and the way he carries himself on the court in victory and loss,” he said. “He was like a good role model on the court, off the court, how he handled the press, just a class act. I definitely enjoyed watching him play tennis growing up,” he added.