It’s the dream final we all wanted when the tournament began as Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will clash for the 2012 Cincinnati Tennis Masters title.
Both guys eased into the final today after convincing wins. Djokovic got past a game Juan Martin Del Potro 6-3, 6-2 who was suffering from a left wrist issue. Federer put in a little extra work dispatching friend and countryman Stan Wawrinka 7-6, 6-3.
What’s interesting in this final is that both players seem be hitting their stride. Neither guy has lost a set yet all week and neither has even dropped a service game!
Federer has made a remarkable transition from the grass to the hardcourt in his first cement event of the summer. And really, the Swiss has looked magnificent – today he could have served better, though. Djokovic has looked dynamite as well, so it sets up for quite a super showdown Sunday and a perfect way to hand off to the US Open.
So who’ll win? Honestly, I’ve been really struggling with this one.
What I like about Federer: He’s been playing extremely well, going after shots, being aggressive and cracking his groundstrokes. As a four-time champion Cincinnati has to be one of his favorite courts.
What I don’t like about Federer: He’s had an easy draw with Fish, Wawrinka and Bogomolov. Also, his first serve percentage today was rather low (54% with 49% in 1st set), and against a good returner like Djokovic that could leave him vulnerable. Worth remembering is how Murray destroyed him at the Olympics and Novak did get him twice on the clay.
What I like about Djokovic: He’s really shook off the disappointment of the grass season and even after Toronto he’s remained in form, riding momentum and heading up that “peak” on his favorite hardcourt surface. He hasn’t looked this good in a while and this match is crucial going forward.
What I don’t like about Djokovic: He had those lackluster, flat losses to Federer, Murray and Del Potro on the Wimbledon grass. And after a very busy summer might some mental/physical fatigue be setting in? Plus, he’s never won Cincinnati and it’s awfully tough to pull off the Canada-Cincy double.
So going in both guys have positives and both guys have negatives that I can see. There’s hardly much to choose between them!
In this their 28th meeting, Federer has won 15 of them most recently during the Wimbledon semifinals last month. Prior to that, however, Djokovic had won six of seven since the start of 2011, losing just that French Open semifinal last year in addition to last month’s loss.
But they do have history in Ohio.
“I played Roger here and have lost in finals, I think, what, two, three years ago,” Djokovic said recalling Federer’s straight set win over him in the 2009 final. “So, you know, not to spend too much words about Roger. We all know how good he is, especially in later stages of events.
“Here conditions are quite fast, so I think it’s quite suitable to his style of the game. We played so many matches against each other. It’s always a big challenge when you play a big rival of yours.”
Of the two, I think Novak needs the win more and he carries the pressure. Even though he took Toronto, he didn’t beat any true rival in that watered-down event and since beating Federer at the French, he’s lost three straight to the Top 5. In order to really re-establish himself as the man on hardcourts build steam toward a year-end No. 1 ranking finish, he absolutely has to win this match.
And At 25 Novak should be at his prime. This is his time, or should be. He has the game, all the shots and he’s fit and healthy. Yet a guy with bad knees ran over him during the clay season then he let a 30-year-old manhandle him on grass. Is the belief he had a year ago still there? Or are the pressures and demands of staying at the top just too great a burden? I think tomorrow we’ll start to find out. He needs to show 2011 wasn’t a fluke.
Meanwhile, having just turned 31 and playing his first hardcourt event since March, Roger has to be pleased with where his game is at. He looks relaxed and comfortable on court as he should because he’s won Cincinnati four times before. And with the No. 1 ranking out of the way – Roger will stay No. 1 next week and for the duration of the US Open – and with his Wimbledon title, the pressure and urgency to win tomorrow just isn’t there as it was at London or even Paris. So tomorrow in some ways is “gravy” as they say.
“I guess it will be helpful to win, but then again, it’s not going to decide the outcome of the US Open,” Federer said. “We’re on opposite sides of the draw at the US Open and might not even play each other. So there you have it. But I’m going to try
my best. I hope I’m more recovered than he is. Again, he’s had a pretty easy road to the finals here this week. I don’t think he must be too tired. Might be more tired mentally just from traveling right from the Olympics, straight to Toronto, winning there, and then coming here. So he’s done an amazing effort and great results so far. I hope I can stop his back-to-back
victories here at the Masters 1000 level.”
Did Federer just hint Djokovic might be mentally tired?
As I still wrestle (and stall) with a pick here, on paper the edge though has to go to Djokovic. It’s his best surface, he just won Toronto and against some stiff resistance he’s been holding serve these last two weeks at a steady clip (only broken once in Toronto!). But I just don’t buy into the notion that he’s back to where he was a year ago. And he might be able to shake those three bad losses on grass, but I can’t.
For Roger, if he serves poorly like he did today I just don’t think he can win (and really same can be said for Djokovic). But he’s beaten Djokovic before in the Cincinnati final and like I said he’s had as much success on this court as any player alive.
“I have loved this tournament for many years and played really well here all the times I’ve come here,” Federer said of the event. “Now I’m really just excited to be back in the finals against Novak. Obviously couldn’t have a tougher test, because he is playing so great on the hard courts.Then again, I’m going for my fifth and I’m feeling well, I have no issues, and I can just really go for it and make to happen tomorrow.”
So while Djokovic really needs this win and he’s been the better player thus far, I don’t think he has that 2011 belief. It’s a false front. That leaves it for Roger who picks up his serve and gets it done on the bigger points.
The pick: Federer in two.
CBS has the final live at 12:30pm ET. The women’s to follow at 4pm.
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