So far this year, hardcourts had been unkind to Roger Federer. However this week, the world number one underwent an exorcism in ousting defending champion Andy Murray in the semifinals. Then, today Federer defeated Novak Djokovic 6-1, 7-5 in the Western and Southern Financial Group Masters to capture his 16th career Masters’ shield.
After an easy service hold, Federer worked his way to double break point. Although Djokovic fought back to deuce, he failed to rein in the game despite three game points. Finally on his seventh break chance, Federer converted when Djokovic sent a forehand crosscourt long. After consolidating with another comfortable service game, Roger earned double break point with a forehand crosscourt volley winner. Federer took a double break lead when Djokovic dumped another forehand into the net for 4-0. Federer remained “in the zone” for the rest of the set and in no time at all, Roger was ahead by a set.
After a change of shirt, Djokovic avoided the first set bagel and his play improved. Subsequent to a love game to start out the second, with a forehand down the line winner to end a long rally, Djokovic arrived at his first break point. Although Federer saved that one with a forehand winner; a determined Novak obtained a third by guessing correctly off an overhead and connecting on a forehand crosscourt winner. When Federer’s lob sailed long, Djokovic secured the break. Then, Novak consolidated for a 3-0 edge. It seemed that a repeat of their previous meetings in Miami and Rome was in the works whereby Federer collapsed after a set and break lead. Once Federer found his first serve and got on the board, with a couple of forehand winners and forced errors, he was at 15-40. When Djokovic misfired on a backhand, the players were again on serve. After squaring the set at 3 all, Federer manufactured three break point opportunities, only to be turned away. After dismissing a break point which was also a set point for Djokovic, Federer earned another break point when Djokovic’s dropshot remained on the Serb’s side of the net. When Novak’s backhand missed its mark, Roger had a 6-5 advantage. With a love game, the world number one closed the match to secure his third Cincy Masters.
In his second tournament back, Rafael Nadal made it to the semifinals but was taken apart by Djokovic. The climb for Nadal, now at number three, has been steep. Nevertheless, with the U.S. Open in a few days, the Spaniard will surely do his best to step up.