Novak Djokovic finally got through a Cincinnati final and he did so convincingly today downing his nemesis and 7-time tournament champion Roger Federer 6-4, 6-4 in a surprisingly one-sided final.
“Obviously it’s a very special moment to stand here for the first time with the winning trophy here in Cincinnati,” Djokovic said on court. “The hard times I went through, it’s been a rollercoaster ride in my career with injury, taking time off and having a surgery earlier this year. This seems a bit unreal to be back at this level.”
And it was a rollercoaster of a week. Djokovic had struggled all week having to come from behind to beat the likes of Grigor Dimitrov, Adrian Mannarino and Milos Raonic, going three with Marin Cilic and in the first round he needed nine match points to put away Steve Johnson.
But today, it was vintage Djokovic who got his serve going (won 78% of second serve points losing just four pts!!), his movement was on point and his lethal return game was especially deadly.
Federer had held 97 straight times in Cincinnati entering the final, but in the very first game you could sense things would be different. Djokovic missed two break point chances but the message was sent. The Serb was bringing his “A” game today.
Serving 3-all a double fault and an error gave Djokovic the break as the chair ump dropped a verbal obscenity warning on Federer whose serving games held streak at the event was snapped at an even 100.
Djokovic hit three aces then coolly served out the first at 5-4. it was his first set win against the Swiss in the Cincinnati final and it wouldn’t be his last.
In the second, Federer finally drew blood thanks to a Djokovic double fault to go up 2-0. His hope was shortlived as Novak broke right back then broke Federer for a second time at 3-all after another Federer double fault set up a break point.
With history on the line, Djokovic didn’t flinch.
The win makes Djokovic the first player to collect all nine Masters titles. And that’s to go along with his Career Grand Slam, Djokovic Slam (winning 4 straight) and his Davis Cup title. About the only thing he’s still missing is Olympic gold. Quite a resume.
He now has 70 career titles and 31 at the Masters level, just two behind Nadal.
The victory also makes him the rock-solid favorite at the US Open. You beat Rafael Nadal at Wimbledon, then Federer in the Cincinnati final, you are doing a lot of things right.
I’m still not 100% on board with the “Novak’s back” case – he just had so many bad patches all week and his second serve was a mess – but all signs are going the proper direction. He’s won 15 of his last 16, won two of the three biggest summer titles (should have also won Queen’s) and beaten his rivals.
As for Federer, he is 37 and after all the rain and having to win four matches in three days was a big ask. He had poor serving day (just 58% of first serves went in and he won less than 50% of second serve points), misfired on 39 unforced errors, had a tough day at the net and his return was way off, “shockingly bad” I think someone said on ESPN. Of course some of that, or a lot of that, can be attributed to Novak.
“It was definitely not my best day on the return,” said Federer who was 7-0 in the Cincinnati final. “That’s it. It was just awful. But it’s okay. He served well. But missing every second serve on the forehand side, I don’t know what that was about. I don’t even want to look for reasons why it happened. I just think it did. Novak totally deserved to win today. This was not good enough. It’s okay. Good week, but I’m happy it’s over and I need to rest. So it’s all good.”
I thought based on Roger’s level of play, Novak’s play and their history on this court and in this final, it would go Roger’s way. But credit to Djokovic for playing his best match of the summer when he needed to the most.
Federer will be back and my guess is we’ll see both of these guys going at it more finals down the road. Heck, maybe they’ll be playing exactly three weeks from today! That would be something, wouldn’t it?
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