What do Cincinnati titles for Roger Federer and Serena Williams mean for their appearances at the US Open in a week’s time?
It means they are the favorites.
Not because it’s Cincy, and not because it’s a week before the US Open. Serena is a no-brainer, dominant in trying to become the first American to achieve the calendar-year Grand Slam in the Open Era.
On Sunday in Cincinnati Serena put down her closest rival, Simona Halep who defeated her at the 2014 year-end championships, 6-3, 7-6(5) to win back-to-back Cincinnati titles.
“I’m ready,” said Williams regarding the US Open, where the world’s eyes will be upon her every move. “I don’t care if I win or lose or break even. I’m ready to start it, get it over with and be done and go on to the next event. But I’m so ready for New York.”
For Halep it was a second straight runner-up finish after the Rogers Cup in Toronto last week, and afterwards she gave the American her blessing.
“I know you can do four,” Halep told Williams during the trophy presentation regarding her upcoming New York campaign.
In the men’s final Federer displayed why he should be the favorite entering New York, while Novak Djokovic showed he will come in a question mark despite his world No. 1 ranking.
Confidence oozed from Federer during his 7-6(1), 6-3 win over Djokovic in the Cincinnati final on Sunday. The pressure was on Djokovic to complete the “Masters Slam” by winning Cincinnati, but he crumbled/tanked to 0-5 career in Cincinnati finals.
The crumble was some physical, mostly mental. Federer slapped winners and rushed the net with abandon, at one point causing Djokovic to try and hit through Federer when the Swiss hit-and-charged his second serve. Djokovic has been bothered this week by an arm issue and earlier in the week possibly by a niggle in his side, but on Sunday Federer was the only thing — be it a thorn? — in his side.
After getting rolled in the first set tiebreak, Djokovic was broken early in the second set, then mentally gave up, tanking two games to make the result just a matter of time.
“I’ve never won this title, so I guess I have to wait for Roger to retire, then try to do something after,” a light-hearted Djokovic said during the trophy ceremony. “But I’ve been really trying, giving my best.”
Uh, maybe during the first set.
“Today wasn’t the day,” Djokovic said. “I’ve been coming back each year wanting it more and more, and I want to thank you all for giving me support.”
Federer tried to lift Djokovic’s spirits with some humble-bragging during his acceptance speech.
“I really hope for you that you can win here one day,” Federer said. “Of course he deserves it — come on. So close, so many years.”
Bet that took a lot of the sting out, eh Djokovic camp?
But what an incredible rivalry this is turning out to be. This year in Dubai Federer beat the Serb in the final by crushing the net with abandonment. Then Djokovic won finals at Rome, Indian Wells and Wimbledon. Now Federer returns with a win at Cincy, inching ahead 21-20 in their career meetings.
Now onto the US Open where Djokovic will take a week off to hopefully heal his elbow, and Federer will try and maintain his level of runaway confidence and net mastery that will make him the one to beat at Flushing Meadows.
“I think he’s more aggressive here than in any other tournament because the surface and conditions allow him to play very fast,” Djokovic hypothesized. “He generally copes well with the fast balls, fast game. He likes this rhythm; I don’t too much. It was right tactics for him.”
Federer, who has apparently opened a battle of head games, said getting in Djokovic’s face time after time was right on time.
“That was the plan, to keep asking question after question,” the Swiss said. “I’m happy it worked out very well. On the return I was able to mix things up very nicely, and on my serve I was rock solid. If you don’t get broken, you can do whatever you want on the return games. I was trying to do that again today, but I was happy I took care of my serve throughout the match.”
Ivan Lendl used to try and take John McEnroe’s head off when the American came in on a whim and a prayer. It was interesting to see Djokovic try and drill Federer on one of his second-serve approaches, though the ball found the net. Djokovic’s post-match comments on the Federer rush-and-crush tactic?
“He was trying, this week, something new,” the Serb said. “I have no comment about it.”
Who looks comfortable entering the US Open? Put Federer and Serena at the end of your brackets.
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