Roger Federer snapped a seventh-month title drought today at Cincinnati, but it was anything but easy. Federer fought off a game effort from the streaking Mardy Fish 6-7 (5), 7-6 (5), 6-4 to capture his fourth Cincinnati Tennis Masters title.
After two-and-a-half sets of break free tennis, Federer finally converted the first break of the match at 4-4 in the third.
Tactically, I thought Federer zeroed in on Mardy’s backhand far too much instead of his weaker forehand. But at 30-40 at 4-4, Federer played a perfect point moving Fish side-to-side to eventually provoke the error of the backhand.
To his credit, Fish never showed the nerves I thought I he would, and despite spending some 13 plus hours on court this week he appeared fresh and ready for the fight. And fight he did.
After going down in the first set breaker, Federer clawed back and eventually held two serves at 5-4. But, like yesterday, Fish was remained resilient winning both points on Fed’s second serve offerings and then his own serve to seize the opening set and draw first blood.
Fish and Federer each stayed on their game in a tight and tense second set with each playing at a good, high level. Federer saved a break chance and they pushed it to a breaker and this time the Swiss (not the K-Swiss-wearing Fish) overwhelmed Fish.
With Fish serving first, the pressure was on Federer to hold, and Fish worked his way into several of Roger’s early service games. But Roger came up with the big serves when he had to.
Fed closed it out when Fish sprayed a backhand wide at 5-4, 40-30.
The win marks Federer’s first title since his Australian Open win all the way back in February. It’s also his fourth Cincinnati title (he defends his 2009 crown), his 17th Tennis Masters (one behind Nadal) and his 63rd career win (ties him with Borg, one behind Sampras). And it was his first title in pink.
Fish, who had won 16 of 17 matches entering the final, finished with 17 aces losing just five points on serve in the third, but had just once break chance. He is scheduled to play in New Haven starting tomorrow but will likely withdraw after this long week of tennis, one of the best of his career.
Looking ahead to the US Open (I’ll write more tomorrow), if Federer was ever out of that conversation of title contenders, he’s certainly back in it now and he has to be among the Top 3 favorites if not the favorite – I think I’d make him the favorite.
I thought Roger moved really, really well today and he was hitting his forehand exceptionally crisply – he really looked like the old Roger. Apart from displaying some over zealousness of hitting to Mardy’s backhand, I thought he played a great match which is something he needed to do to win against a very hot player. And this victory – with our without new trial coach Paul Annacone – really puts him in position to go deep in New York. If you are a Federer fan you have to be pleased with what you saw today.
For Fish, what a great week and what a great showing today. No nerves, no hiccups – Fed broke him in a well-played 4-all game – and no sign of fatigue. If he can keep his body in check I’d expect big things from Mardy in a week in NY where he’ll be among the Top 25 seeds and a very dangerous one at that.
What a great, entertainment way to end the heart of the pre-US Open lead up.
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