August 18, 2013 by Parveer Mann
Raise your hand if you had picked Rafael Nadal to sweep these past two Masters Series events in Canada and Cincinnati. Because if you did, I think you saw something everyone else didn’t. He was playing for the first time since another Wimbledon letdown (first round loss to Steve Darcis) and on a surface that he has largely avoided all year. Hence, there was a lot of speculation on how well Rafa would do and by the end of the two weeks; we knew more than we thought we would.
Completing the Canada/Cincy Double
I personally love back-to-back Masters Events because it might be the hardest test in tennis. Each player has to play 5/6 matches over a one week span all against Top 50 opponents (times two). Throw in the ultra-competitive surface and you would understand why only three men had ever won these two Masters events in successive weeks. Nadal joins Andre Agassi, Patrick Rafter and Andy Roddick in completing the task and now looks poised to join Rafter and Roddick in winning the US Open the same year they did it.
Along the way, he has answered questions about his knee by simply going out there and playing. The murmur across the tennis world was that for every match he won in Montreal, he would be that much closer to pulling out of Cincinnati. Not only did that not happen, he went on to win his first Cincy title and his reaction after winning showed us all how much he wanted it.
Ranking the US Open contenders
This two-week run has absolutely vaulted Nadal into the top tier of contenders in New York if he wasn’t their already. Let’s take a quick look at how I think the top contenders shake out in advance of next week’s US Open:
Top Tier: Rafael Nadal, Andy Murray and Novak Djokovic (All have won a slam this year and figure to be finals threats at a minimum).
Next Tier: Juan Martin Del Potro, Roger Federer and Tomas Berdych (Delpo figures to have the best shot of these three).
Sleepers: Tommy Haas, John Isner, Milos Raonic and David Ferrer (The first three will be tough outs come the fourth round and quarters and Ferrer always seems to be a viable semis contender).
Any other contenders that I missed? Join the conversation below as we all eagerly wait for the year’s last Grand Slam to begin next week.