Cincy, Toronto recap: Federer & Henin win, but fail to impress
by Abe Kuijl | August 21st, 2007, 1:58 pm
  • 39 Comments

Doesn’t it all look so familiar. A big Masters Series tournament in Cincinnati where all the top players compete, but where half of them suffer from playing the week before, and a top tier WTA event without most of the tour’s stars. Federer wins the men’s event, while Henin prevails as the top lady. Is there a better sport for traditionalists than tennis?

Winning a tournament is always a respectable achievement, but when you’re the number one men’s or women’s player, fans tend to expect a certain greatness in the way you play. Neither Federer nor Henin was able to fulfill those expectations last week.

Not only did Federer fail to play his best, he was vulnerable throughout the week, and could well have been taken out by either Marcos Baghdatis in the third round, or Lleyton Hewitt in the semifinals. Nicolas Almagro took a set from the Swiss as well, but with the inexperienced and up-and-down Spaniard you never truly felt he could pull the upset.

That was not the case with Baghdatis, who had the first set for the taking, but choked trying to close out on his own serve. The Cypriot was the dominant player throughout the encounter, but Federer escaped when more inexplicable mistakes from Baghdatis near the end of the second set cost him the match. Federer’s forehand was shockingly erratic and he was slow on his feet. It carried over to his match against Hewitt in the semifinals, but Federer again came back from behind to win. This time in a third set tiebreak. Hewitt had led 3-2 and with a break of serve in the final set, but the Aussie faltered when it mattered most, just like Baghdatis did.

In the final, Federer pulled off a better performance, but was helped when James Blake, who had played brilliantly against Juan Carlos Ferrero earlier in the tournament, was shanking shots all over the place, never troubling the No.1 in a 6-1 6-4 loss.

Last week was a perfect example of the fact that no matter how well or poor Federer plays, the intimidating factor of being one of the greatest athletes the sport has ever seen is enough for the Swiss to get him through the majority of his matches. As Baghdatis said after losing to the No.1: ‘He won because of his name’.

That intimidating factor certainly plays a role in a match featuring Justine Henin and Jelena Jankovic. When Jankovic speaks about her rival, whom she is now 0 for 7 against, you get the sense that she doesn’t truly believe she has what it takes to beat her. How many times have we seen the following now? Jankovic takes an early lead in a set, but starts to become more defensive each game she gets closer to winning. Henin finds a way to turn previous unforced errors into winners at the right time and comes back to edge out the set.

Such was the story on Sunday, where at times, Henin would hit three or four forehands halfway into the net, or terribly wide, but kept going for the shot and made it count every time it mattered. Jankovic has to learn to stay aggressive throughout the course of a match against Henin, or she will never get a W over the Belgian. Also, that serve is nowhere near Top 10 standards.

Still, Jankovic will be one of the biggest contenders at the US Open, now that Sharapova has reinjured herself, Serena Williams hasn’t played a match since Wimbledon and Mauresmo sits one out. Having finally taken some good time off to recharge the batteries after Wimby, Jankovic might get her first Slam singles trophy in New York. Someone will likely have to take out Henin for her though.

Full US Open previews coming this weekend.


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39 Comments for Cincy, Toronto recap: Federer & Henin win, but fail to impress

Dancevic FAN! Says:

It’s true, you can’t argue against what a pro player like Baghdatis has to say when explaining why he loses a set to a guy like Federer. The mental toughness and belief always needs to be there if these guys are to be consistently good enough throughout a match to beat Federer.

On the other hand, sometimes players don’t have to play their 100% best – and shouldn’t, so that they avoid injuries and overdoing things so that they’re fitter and healthier for a longer time. When they’re not playing their best in a match because they don’t have, it’s always nice to see their opponents raise the bar and make them play better.

Let’s hope that there’s lots of matches at the U.S. Open that raise the bar and push players to play some of the best tennis we’ve ever seen!


Kash Says:

I did not feel hewitt was going to win the semifinal even when he broke federer in the 3rd set. Let’s face it, this is the guy who has not won more than 7games in a best of 3 match against fed-ex since god knows when! Even a federer at 80% should win a best of 3 match against hewitt in straights. The fact that the match went 3 only says how far fed has fallen from his best.


Christopher Says:

Maybe the tennis scheduling gods need to space these master series events at least one week apart. It is ridiculous to expect the top players to play top level tennis (without getting tired) two consective master series weeks in a row. I think they also get burned out mentally. Miami and Indian wells are not as bad because there are no grand slams near them and I believe they expand the Miami tournament to a week and a half. Hamburg coming right after Rome really gets hurt the most. The top clay court players give it their all in Rome and don’t want to burn themselves out in Hamburg before the French open. This happened to Federer and Nadal in 2006. Both withdrew from Hamburg to rest up for Paris. In the summer time, the master series events in Canada and Cincinnati are also back to back. It seems that none of the top men’s players play well in both consistently. Federer was the expection this year. In past years he hasn’t done well in both back to back. I just think the scheduling people would do tennis and its’ players a big favor by spacing these events apart more strategically.


max619 Says:

Let’s recap the facts from Cincy:
1. Fed played less than 60% of what he can
2. Fed made an incredible number of unforced errors except in the final match
3. Still nobody could beat him

What all this tells you is that Fed playing at 60% still beats top 20 players and if the top 10 players don’t take advantage of the situation like Djoko did in Montreal when Fed starts playing just 80% of what he can…well…forget it (unless you are Nadal and playing Fed on dirt).


Joe Says:

True, Federer was not playing his best Tennis, but he did come through it all. You can hardley say it isnt impressive. I agree he was certainly vulnerable yet nobody could pull the upset and they had more than enought chances. He earns all he wins and blaming a loss to him because of his “name” is pathetic and an attempt to cover up ones own mental weakness. Federer worked hard to get to the top and the power his name commands on the tennis court is deserved. On the womens side of the US open, I would love to see Jankovic take the title. I personaly am not a Sharapova fan because I dont like her peronality, behavior or style of play. Im sure Henin will do well and I dont predict the Williams making it past the quarters (if even that)


max619 Says:

on Joe saying
“You can hardly say it isn’t impressive”, you are absolutely right on the money. In fact the title of the xblog should have been “Impressive, Fed playing at 60% in back-to-back master series pulls out the win” …unlike the new foes like Djoko or the injury prone Nadal.
Baghdatis who?


Ari Shuza Says:

So from this rant it seems like there Feds is always in a lose-lose situation:

1. If Feds wins in an impressive fashion then:
Tennis is too boring.
There’s no competition.
Feds is winning cuz there’s no competition.
etc etc

2. If Feds struggles and then wins,
It was not impressive enough.
It was not a good tournament.
etc etc

Come on! This is ridiculous! It was true Feds was a little off at times during his match, but this showed some intense competition and close matches which were good for the sport. And the fact that Feds won these tighter matches shows that he is stil kicking a$$.


penise Says:

Fed has reached the stage where it is difficult for him to get psyched. He only cares about beating Sampras’ majors record and winning enough to retain his No. 1 ranking.


Hako Says:

What you said about Henin is true…..a forehand that was mis-firing, and a serve that never has settled into a reliable weapon.
That said, the fact that she can beat almost anyone almost anywhere with these deficits is intimidating. When she can’t find her “A” game, she relys instead on her unflinching will. I’ve seen her play when the first serve WAS a real weapon, producing ace after ace, and the forehand wouldnt miss. It on these days, admittedly infrequent, she shows that she really is the best in the world.


nadalfan Says:

nadal can beat an 80% federer on any surface.


Dancevic FAN! Says:

nadalfan – you could be right – but nadal can’t win 96% of his matches against all other players across so many years like Federer – so if he manages to make it to the final, and we get a Federer – Nadal final, great, it will be an awesome match!

Federer could have a tough time getting to the final as well – if his form is down, there could be an upset!


Christopher Says:

I do not believe in a best of 5 set match that Nadal can beat Federer on hard courts. I don’t believe that Nadal will even make the U.S. Open final. I believe it far more likely that Djokovic or Roddick will meat Federer in the final. No one is going to sneak up and suprise Federer in the early rounds of the U.S. open like a Canas did earlier in the season. Federer peaks for the grand slams. No one paces themselves better than he does. Get ready for a Fed 4-peat at the U.S. Open.


max619 Says:

a 80% Nadal can beat a 80% Federer only on dirt
a 110% Nadal can beat a 80% Fed on any other surface.


Shital Green Says:

I agree with most of what Abe Kuijil says, but couldn’t this post be more timely? We would have had much more passionate conversations had it come the same or the next day after the Cincy. I don’t discount Baggy making to the semi or even Final, depending on how he performs and how well the draw favors him. The draw sometimes dictates the outcome. For instance, if Fed has those 3-4 guys who have given him trouble recently on his side of the quarter, his chances of falling may increase. If Djoko, Roddick, and Nadal have players whom they have always beaten easily on their quarters, they may benefit from it (think of Djoko’s situation in Wimbledon where he retired due to those lengthy 5 setters). Sometimes, it could be the other way round, too: tougher opponents in the early rounds can make your job easier later.


Skorocel Says:

Come on, dear author! Since you’ve began posting on tennis-x.com, I can hardly remember you saying something positive about Fed… Do you really dislike him so much? As someone said, if he’s destroying the rest of the field, then there’s always that talk about no competition and bla bla, but if he’s struggling, he then suddenly does have new foes, looks unimpressive – heck, he’s about to lose his Nr. 1 ranking spot, isn’t it?

Come on! You say he won Cincy only because of his name… Then what? As someone posted above, he’s worked goddamn hard to achieve this status, and now he’s just enjoying it – that’s all! Do you really think other greats such as Sampras, Agassi, or Borg weren’t intimidating?

And Christopher, you’re absolutely right about that scheduling! In my opinion, playing 5 matches instead of 6 + best of 3 final instead of 5 simply ISN’T enough for the top players to be 100 % ready for the next MS tournament (if it starts immediately after the one they’re playing at, that is). It maybe worked in Hamburg, but apparently not in Cincy… Not to mention that a tournament which requires 5 matches instead of 6 for eventual win (with best of 3 sets final instead of 5) isn’t worth of being called a “Masters Series tournament”. Simply, make that a 6 matches tournament with best of 5 sets final, provided they won’t be immediately after each other…

Also Christopher, as you’ve said, Fed will definitely be 100 % ready during the US Open. After all, that’s all what counts for him at this moment, isn’t it? Not to say Montreal wasn’t worth for Fed (indeed, it was!), but (as you’ve said), at grandslams you always play best of 5 set matches, so there’s certainly lesser chance of someone upsetting the Swiss. But anyway, I’m not taking anything away from Djoko’s win! The rules were the same for both of them (i.e. they both needed to win 2 sets), and he won fair and square!


Christopher Says:

Skorocel,

Yes, Djokovic had a fantastic almost a super human win in Canada. To beat Roddick, Nadal, and Federer, no matter what the circumstances, is unbeleavable. I do believe that Federer will want revenge against Djokovic on hard courts. If those two do play in the finals then Djokovic could be in for a long afternoon. Federer, very calmly and in a nice way, loves to get revenge against his closest rivals in a very lop sided way. Let’s see how cocky Djokovic is against Federer in a U.S. Open final where the stakes are so high. I think he will wilt under the pressure just like he did in Cincinnati. I believe Canada was Djokovic’s U.S. Open. If you know what I mean. Anyways, it will be thrilling to watch and see who wins!


Dancevic FAN! Says:

True Shital…the draw always adds interesting subplots and twists.

penise – I don’t think that Fed only cares now about Sampras’ records and caring to retain the #1 ranking. He’s had lots of interviews in the past several months that describe many other things in the tennis world that he cares about…I think that those things are important but not the only factors of importance to him.

Ari – It boils down to some people simply becoming tired of the same breakfast, lunch and dinner all the time. I think that those complainers don’t enjoy long term commitments ;)


Tejuz Says:

Well..
Fed was Unimpressive – probably because he wasnt playing at a level we are so used to seeing him.

But he was impressive, because he overcame his erroneous shot-making and won some tight battles against some fierce competition. Now Fed will be happy to know that even if he is playing at his 60% he could still win Masters tournaments.

Fed has entered alomost every grandslam this year with a point to prove.

AU Open – Fed had skipped his warm-up tournament and lost to Andy at kooyong.. so talks abt Andy catching up with Fed.. He won it without dropping a set.

French Open – After the worst slump of his career and sacking of his coach, he had to prove that he wasnt losing his touch. He did reach the finals without dropping a set.

Wimbledon – Skipped Halle, and for a while no player had won wimbledon after skipping the warmup tournament.. which prompted Fed to say that he would have to win the tournament to prove that his decision was right.. which he did.
In a way it was good because wimbledon is now the first tournament which Fed has won 5 times.

US Open – lets see how it goes.


FoT Says:

Tejuz and others… good points about Roger. I agree with everything you guys have said. It seem like to some writers, Roger is in a no-win situation. Like you said… If he wins 6-1 6-1 then it’s boring tennis. If he wins 7-6 7-6 then he’s unimpressive… He can’t win in some people’s eyes. But he just goes on about his business. More power to him! Here’s to hoping he gets #4 in New York!


Dancevic FAN! Says:

Just like some people rout for Harry Potter to die, — as do I one of these days!!! — some rout for Roger Federer to lose. Oh well… some people always see a cup as half empty rather than half full.


Dancevic FAN! Says:

And you know Potter will die – if Rowling does actually write a crime novel (since it’s a false rumour) – I’m sure it will detail the Potter murder investigation!


mel Says:

yup federer in lose-lose here. i wonder, this website should change its name to the anti-rogerfederer fan club web site. a little perspective please…


JackOfAllBalls Says:

Nadal simply is not suited for fast surfaces. People get confused because he appeared in Wimby final two years in the row, but Wimby is not a fast surface anymore.


nadalfan Says:

the draw came out. i thnk for federer and nadal its pretty friendly but novak will be nadals semi that will depend on how they are both playing on the day it cud go either way but i must say in the favor of novak. youhzny blake berdych hewitt none of them are in nadal’s half so thats good for him. i think he shoud make the semis from there on it depends on how he is playing.


Daniel Says:

But Nadal has Gonzales in his quarters. This year AO was an example of what can happen!


Shital Green Says:

Yes, the draw came out. In the pre-quarter, Fed has a couple of qualifiers before he meets Isner, Ferrero, or Gasquet. In the 1st Quarter, if everything goes without a surprise, he will meet Berdych, Mathieu, Dr. Ivo, or Roddick.

In the groups forming the 2nd Quarter, the well- known faces are Davydenko, Almagro, Canas, A. Murray, Hrbaty. The winner of this group will meet Baggy, Haas, Volandri, Querrey, or Blake.

In the 3rd Quarter, the well known faces are Youzhny, Robredo, Moya, and Starace. The winner will meet either Djoko, Ancic, Del Potro, Monaco, Stepanek, or Hewitt.
In the 4th Quarter, the well-known faces are Nadal, Tsonga, Ljubicic, and Nalbandian. The winner will meet either Monfils, Safin, Gonzalez, or Chela.

Up until quarter, so Djoko seems to have the hardest draw than Fed and Nadal. If Djoko can survive and can make it to the semi, I predict he will be lethal or he could be too exhausted like he was at the Wimby.


Daniel Says:

I agree with you Shital!
Djoko is the one who will be tested until the semis. Nadal will have to pass Gonzales. And Federer will face Roddick, who should be very inspired if he wants to keep the points he gained last year.
In a long perspective, Nadal will have difficult matches. For his fans, which claim in earlier days that he could suppress Federer this year, he will have to win Gonzales, Djoko and Federer for the title and prove he can win in hard courts, something I found hardly conclusive.


Shital Green Says:

Yes, Daniel,
If Wimby is the sweet old prestige, then US Open is the crowd, glamor, money, and media publicity. Both have been denied to Nadal so far. If French Open is getting more difficult for Fed every year, almost the same could be said about the US Open for Nadal up until today. Aussie, still harder due to the surface, heat, and more skillful hard court players. If anyone has anything to prove, it is Nadal. He has a greater stake, and appears to be determined to prove us wrong about him. With that kind of determination, it cannot be concluded beforehand that Nadal will never make it to the Final, though it is not easier this year at all than last year.


Christopher Says:

Shital Green,

With all due respect, Federer is far closer to winning the French open than Nadal is to winning the U.S. open. The comparision is not exactly equal at all. You are right, however. Nadal’s heavy top spin game is not as effective on hard courts as it is on clay. Attacking players can take his ball and put him on the defensive more times than not. Youzhny took him out last year playing that aggresive style and Blake took him out the year before. If Nadal is still suffering from an injury it could be an unknown player to take him out this year. I don’t think the U.S. Open surface suits his game well. Federer, on the hand, still will have Roddick in his way in the quarterfinals. I’m sure Roddick wishes he had done better in Cincinnati where he had 500 pts to defend. The early loss dropped his ranking and thus his seeding in the Open. Who knows, maybe Roddick can pull the upset.

Am I crazy. That AINT gonna happen!

Fed all the way!!!


Joanne Says:

Its interesting how people view Fed.He rarely seems to satisfy many people who write about him except perhaps the British press.If he plays well he is making it look too easy and people say he’s boring.If he is struggling,for him,he’s not going to win any more slams all of a sudden.People don’t seem to remember this guy has been winning for 4 years,he’s not going to stop.He knows how to win when he’s struggling.Even when he’s injured or tired he keeps on going.He may not grunt and pump giant muscles but he is the James Bond of tennis players(sorry for the corny analogy but it fits);brains,humour,skill,sleight of hand.Looking like he’s going to loose any minute but he wins.He’s got all the tricks.Next stop Grand Slam.


Tejuz Says:

well.. Yeah.. Djoko seems to have the toughest draw. 1st and 2nd round might be tough one for him with Ancic and Stepanek.. both are serve-volley players who doesnt let you setlle into a rhythm. And US Open hard courts suit serve-volley tennis.. players like Rafter, Sampras have had success here.


Tejuz Says:

Also Djoker could reach the semis and be totally exhausted as he was against Nadal in Wimby.


AbsolutFed Says:

Fed will win because he’s not finished , he’s VERY interesting of making history and he’s the best no matter what .


Ryan Says:

I agree with the guys here, that sean randall and abe kuijl are big anti-federer characters.
When nadal doesnt play well on hard surfaces everyone says “oh he’s just a claycourter”.when fed doesnt do well on clay or wherever everyone blames him and says he’s going down.He’s just a human being like everyone else.
As for Fed, the idea was to gain points, win the US open series and get that extra million dollars if he wins the US open.Winning is winning. Whether he wins matches playing his 100% or 50% is not wat’s important.
The point is he won the US open series despite that loss against Djokovic and nobody could stop him and the same could apply to the US open.


Skorocel Says:

Btw, does that mean Fed is already the GUARANTEED winner of the US Open series? It sounds a bit strange to me, since I guess there’s still a lot of points up for grabs at the Open (or isn’t the Open a part of the series?) Fed played only 2 events (albeit the biggest ones) prior to the Open, whereas guys like Roddick or Blake played also in Washington, Indianapolis, etc., so it’s a bit strange to hear that he has ALREADY secured the series… Can someone explain it to me? Thanks in advance.


Tejuz Says:

Skorocel, Points at US Open isnt counted in for the US Open series. So Fed is already the winner along with Sharapova from the women’s side. Its left to Fed to take advantage of this in terms of prize money if he reaches the semis or finals or win theUS Open


achilles190 Says:

It is true that Federer was not playing at his maestro best in Cincinatti or Montreal…..but I noticed that he still hit these unbelievalbe shots of both wings on the backhand…….

With Federer’s style of play, he naturally puts his opponents under pressure……His disguise makes it tough to read his shots especially on serve…..Even on bad days he still returns serve consistently and makes good gets…..

When Federer is playing unbleievable he his w winners to errors ratio is high …and the depth of his ground strokes are deep …..

The real point I am trying to make is that intimidation aside the quality of Federers game even on off days is emnough to place players under pressure


jane Says:

Good Lord – IF the writers are, in fact, “anti-Federer” (which I don’t think is the case – even Fed Fanatics have to admit that he’s not playing in top form of late) you people MORE THAN make up for it! Relax. Let people have an opinion that doesn’t “ra-ra” Federer as the greatest. The TV commentators more than make up for this anyhow during ANY match Federer plays, while they flash Fed’s statistics at viewers throughout, while going on-and-on about his greatness and ignoring his opponent often altogether.

BTW, Djok was exhausted at Wimbie because he had to play EVERYDAY. It’s a different situation here. At least I hope it is! Rain delays should not mean players should have to play until they are limping onto the court – except Federer, of course, who by chance had a 5 day holiday in the middle of the grand slam tournament.

Let’s hope the Open doesn’t make those sorts of ridiculous mistakes.


Ryan Says:

Well if Fed is being praised all the time then maybe he deserves it.Who has won grand slams so consistently other than him( 9 slam finals in a row probably a 10th now with the US open)? As for his opponent there’s not much to say about him anyway especially if he’s outside the top 10.
As for rain you cannot blame the organizers.They need to finish a set of matches within 2 weeks so somethings gotta give.So if the players are playing everyday because of their postponed matches it’s just their bad luck.Blame the rain…..

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