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He had one of his biggest challenges on Sunday — the 6-foot-10 Isner, who had the tournament’s nastiest serve and the crowd at center court behind him.

Wasn’t enough to get Nadal off his game.

He survived a pair of set points in the opener, sending it to a tiebreaker. The crowd chanted “Let’s go Isner!” during a changeover during the tiebreaker, which ended with Isner dumping a service return into the net and Nadal pumping his fist.

One set to go.

Isner didn’t waver, keeping up with a serve that topped out at 141 mph. Nadal survived the only break point of the second set, taking it to another tiebreaker. The crowd chanted Isner’s name again, but it didn’t help. He hit a backhand and a forehand into the net, allowing Nadal to go up 5-1 in the tiebreaker.

Nadal finished it with a backhand passing shot from the baseline, then plopped on his back. He never got to a break point during the match, but won it by playing so well in the tiebreakers.

“I have to be patient and wait for my opportunities,” Nadal said. “And I waited.”

Even with the loss, it was quite a week for Isner.

While Nadal spent last week winning the Rogers Cup, Isner was knocked out in the first round and fell to No. 22, the first time in the 40 years of ATP rankings that no American man was in the top 20. He’ll move up to No. 14 next week after reaching the finals in Cincinnati on the strength of his serve.

The 28-year-old American upset No. 1 Djokovic in the quarterfinals at Cincinnati, one of the best moments of his career. Since July, Isner has won 16 of his 20 matches, making him into a dangerous player heading into the U.S. Open.

“So I played a lot, and I’ve won a bunch of them,” he said. “And a lot of very, very encouraging results.”

On the women’s side, Williams has dominated, going 60-4 this season. She has never done well in Cincinnati, and was eager to win on Sunday for a career-best ninth title of the season. All the statistics were in her favor — a 12-2 career record against Azarenka, including that U.S. Open title last year.

She won the first set in 26 minutes, dropping only 11 points. Then, she got sloppy in a second set that bogged down. The sixth game went to deuce 12 times before Williams held serve on the 30th point. Williams appeared to wear down and lost the set 6-2.

Williams broke Azarenka and took the decisive set to a tiebreaker. She led 5-4, then lost the next two points off her serve, allowing Azarenka to finish it off in 2 hours, 29 minutes.