MASON, Ohio — The vintage rematch ended with Rafael Nadal pumping his arms after a final forehand. He was a little bit better than old nemesis Roger Federer once again.
Nadal advanced to the semifinals of the Western & Southern Open with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-3 win over Federer on Friday night, a vintage rematch that reinforced their head-to-head standings for now.
Nadal improved to 21-10 against his top rival, including wins all of their three matches this year. A close match came down to a few points, and Nadal got most of them.
"Always the emotion's out there when we play each other," Nadal said.
Their first meeting in Cincinnati highlighted a day of upsets in the men's bracket. No. 1 Novak Djokovic and No. 2 Andy Murray lost in the quarterfinals. No. 1 Serena Williams moved on in the women's bracket.
Nadal moves on, too, playing Tomas Berdych in the semifinals.
It's been a summer of resurgence for the 27-year-old Spaniard. He missed the end of last season with a knee injury, but has gotten into one of the best stretches this season. He takes a career-best 51-3 mark into the semifinal, including a 14-1 against Top 10 opponents.
It's been a rough summer for Federer, who was beaten by a player ranked 116th in the world at Wimbledon. And that was just the start. The 32-year-old Swiss star kept getting upset and struggled with a sore back.
Federer hoped that his week in Cincinnati would help him repair his game. He's won the tournament an unprecedented five times. As the week went along, his game got noticeably better, leaving him optimistic about the U.S. Open.
"I can definitely take more things away from this week than I could for the last sort of three months," Federer said. "So I'm happy about that. That sets it up nicely for me for New York, I think."
Their match was as good as any in the tournament.
Federer got the first break to go up 6-5 in the opening set and finished it off with a crosscourt backhand. Nadal got his first break of the match to win the second set. He broke Federer again in the second game of the third set to take control.
They moved each other around, hit the lines and lobbed over each other's heads, making one exquisite shot after another while bringing fans to their feet.
Federer fought off four match points before Nadal put it away.
While Federer and Nadal rekindled a famous rivalry, the top-ranked player had another disappointment on Cincinnati's fast, blue courts. It's the only place that Djokovic can't win.
Top-ranked American John Isner ended his attempt to make ATP history on Friday, prevailing 7-6 (5), 3-6, 7-5.