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TENNIS

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Associated Press Not even John Isner’s steamiest serves could keep Rafael Nadal from winning another hard-court title. And it’s going to be tough for anyone else to stop him, too. The 27-year-old Spaniard took advantage of the few openings he got Sunday against the top-ranked American, grinding out a 7-6 (8), 7-6 (3) win at the Western & Southern Open in Mason, Ohio, that added yet another title to his sensational summer. He won the title in Montreal a week ago and now has back-to-back hard-court championships for the first time in his illustrious career. He’d never even reached the final in Ohio. When his backhand down the line finished it off, Nadal flopped on his back in joy. “It means a lot winning two straight titles on hard [courts],” Nadal said. “It’s just amazing for me. I never did something like this in my career. “So it was an emotional moment.” Heading into the U.S. Open, there’s no doubt about who has the most momentum — the one with the two new additions to the trophy case. Serena Williams wilted in the Ohio heat Sunday night at the women’s final. She dominated the first set, then fell apart, giving No. 2 Victoria Azarenka a chance to rally for a 2-6, 6-2, 7-6 (6) win that ended Williams’ 14-match winning streak. Williams has dominated on the tour, going 60-4 this season. She has never done well in Cincinnati, and was eager to win 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.

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