Another summer lead-up and more of the same. John Isner played well in the smaller events, Novak Djokovic still can’t find the mark after Wimbledon and Roger Federer is up to his usual tricks winning another Cincinnati title, his seventh!
I’ll get to Isner, Djokovic, Andy Murray and the others in a separate post, but for now a few thoughts on Roger remarkable run last week.
1) He’s 34
That’s right. 34. He’s older than Andy Roddick who’s been out of the game a few years. He’s the same age as the broken-down Lleyton Hewitt who ranks 345 spots behind Roger. And he’s just a year younger than Marat Safin! Remember him? Of course you do. He hasn’t played in forever.
Point is, Federer just won his seventh Cincinnati title without losing serve, without losing a set and by beating the top two in the world on back-to-back days.
That impressive for anyone let alone a guy who just turned 34 with a wife and four kids.
Regardless of the court surface, fatigue factors with his opponents and the cushy early draw, it’s just an awesome performance.
2) The Sneak Attack Service Returns
So who didn’t enjoy watching Federer short-hop serves all week? I know I did.
It’s a tactic that was used back in the 80s – the chip and charge – but has gone away with the proliferation of the super strings and and high-tech racquets. But Federer took the tactic to an extreme in Cincinnati, not really chipping at all, just rushing and disrupting.
“I’m not going to play the way they like it,” Federer said Sunday. “I’ll always come out and make it an athletic match or make it uncomfortable in the sense that they don’t know what’s coming. Can’t always do it. Some surfaces allow you to do it better than others, but this week it worked out well. Let’s be honest, I didn’t do it on every single seconds serve, but I was very aggressive the a second serves, and I am happy to see that actually it’s also a way forward for me, because for quite a long time my career I was very content to chip it and be aggressive with the forehand.”
I don’t know what the finals numbers were – did he win 50% of those points? – but it was fun to watch and while it didn’t win him any matches, it sure did annoy his opponents and give them some extra to think about.
That said, I’ll be interested to see how he employs it going forward. The Cincy courts were quick, so that was a suitable place to try it. I don’t know yet if the US Open courts will be as fast.
But it will be certainly interesting to see how players continue to react. And like I said, it does give his opponents a little some extra to think about. And that’s often a good thing in this mental sport of ours.
3) Let’s Temper This
OK, so he won another Cincy, but if you want to make the case Roger had a dream draw early on and then he ran into two tired Big 4 guys at the end, well, I’ll listen.
Let’s be real, I don’t think many gave Murray much of a shot against Roger in the SFs. Not after Andy just won Canada then had to win two matches on consecutive days from a set down just to make the semis. In fact, Grigor should have done the deed in the third round, but couldn’t get his hands off his neck to finish it.
Djokovic looked like crap most of the week – David Goffin should have ended his run if not for a similar Grigor choke. Alexandr Dolgopolov had him on the ropes in the semis but couldn’t find the belief. And I credit Novak (and Andy).
Still, in the final I thought early on Djokovic rose up to the Federer challenge in the first set, but Roger was just too good taking the breaker. Then I felt the Serb relented a little bit. Maybe it was all the tennis he’s played or just the fact he can’t seem to win Cincinnati, but he looked out of it in the second, almost resigned to defeat.
And the event is played on one of the fastest outdoor hardcourts on the circuit. Like Dubai, which Federer also won this year for a seventh time beating Djokovic. But a few weeks later it was Novak winning the bigger title over Roger at Indian Wells.
4) Fresh And Confident
But hey, Roger’s not thinking that he got lucky last week. He’s thinking he’s fresh and full of confidence for the US Open.
And he’s right.
He goes into the US Open with more momentum than anyone else. And as he said, he’s got his matches, he’s got the confidence and he’s fresh. I really don’t know what more he could want? A win over Rafa in the Cincy quarters? Injuries to Novak and Murray?
5) The US Open No. 2 Seed
Federer says he doesn’t care much about it, but I think he does.
By getting the second seed, he now has a chance of avoiding Murray in the semifinals. Had he been third, he wouldn’t have that chance as he would have been drawn to face either Murray of Djokovic in the semifinals. Now there’s a chance he won’t see a Big 4 until the final. Which, at 34, has to help.
Then again, Murray could get put in Roger’s half anyway in which case the seeding wouldn’t have mattered at all.
But Federer’s often had the luck of the draw, so even though it’s a 50/50 bet where Murray lands, most would say he’ll fall with Novak. We’ll see on Thursday!
6) Does This Improve Roger’s Chances At The US Open?
However Cincinnati and the US Open are two very different events. Yes, they are played on hardcourt in American, but Cincy has the quicker courts, the more compact schedule and the matches are best of 3.
In New York, it’s best-of-5 and players will get a day of rest between matches. So imagine Federer having to play Murray in Cincy after the Scot had a day off. Or Novak in the final after a day off. To me, that’s a big difference.
Then again, maybe Federer has a long match so he’ll have his time to recover. So it works both ways.
Point is, the best-of-5 format makes it tougher for Roger to win, and that’s something he hasn’t done at the US Open since 2008, and he hasn’t made the final since 2009.
Since his last US Open title, not including this year, Federer’s won Cincinnati four times and none of them resulted in a US Open title a few weeks later.
So that’s something to chew on as we wait for the US Open draw to be unveiled on Thursday.
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