Following his Australian Open victory in February, Roger Federer’s game had been in a tailspin. In his best form since Melbourne, Federer made the final at the Rogers Cup last week, but went down to Andy Murray. However, today, Federer edged out wildcard Mardy Fish 6-7,7-6,6-4 at the Western and Southern Financial Group Masters for his second straight Western and Southern Financial Group Masters title and his 17th Masters’ shield.
This hardcourt season, Fish has positioned himself as a man to fear. After a grass title in Newport, Fish claimed the initial trophy of the Olympus U.S. Open series in Atlanta. In Cincinnati the first three rounds, Fish dismissed Gilles Simon, 9th seed Fernando Verdasco and Richard Gasquet in straight sets. Subsequently, in the quarterfinals, Fish defeated Andy Murray for the third consecutive time. Then, in the semifinals, Fish collected his second successive win over Andy Roddick by erasing a 4-6,2-5 deficit and improved his record to 16-1 since Wimbledon. Thus, with these results, Fish’s confidence was astronomical.
Moreover, with Fish in the most outstanding physical shape of his career and an easy triumph over Federer in their last meeting at Indian Wells in 2008, the chances were excellent that in his fourth attempt, Fish would gain his first Masters’ shield. Conversely, despite advancing to two other finals besides Toronto, Federer was denied in Madrid and Halle this year. In his 90th career final, Federer was hungrier than ever to capture his 63rd career title and gain momentum heading into the U.S. Open.
Subsequent to a comfortable hold by each player, Fish got embroiled in a 15 minute plus game. After surviving two break points, on the ninth deuce, Fish obtained a game point with a backhand volley winner and sealed the game with a strong serve for 2-1. Thereafter, both men cruised on serve until the tenth game when Fish misfired on a forehand up the line to give Federer set point. With an ace, Fish wiped out Federer’s advantage and later tied the set at 5 all. At 5-6 on Fish’s serve, Federer arrived again at set point when Fish’s stroke hit the net and flew long. Once more, Fish repelled his opponent and forced a tiebreaker.
On Federer’s backhand crosscourt error, Fish got a mini-break for 4-3. But, with two forehand winners, Federer stole both points off Fish’s serve for 5-4. Still, Fish reversed the tides with an overhead winner and a backhand error by Federer to fabricate set point at 6-5. With Federer unable to catch up to Fish’s serve, the American bagged the tiebreaker.
Yet to face a break point, Federer continued to coast on serve in the second set. However, Fish had no problem matching the defending champion. In fact, Fish’s first serve percentage improved as the set progressed. At two all, Fish pushed Federer to a deuce game. But, Federer guarded serve to stay ahead 3-2. After holding at love for 6-5, Federer got to deuce on Fish’s watch with a forehand up the line winner. By readily finding his first serve, Fish held for a second tiebreaker.
With a forehand crosscourt winner, Federer inched ahead with a mini-break for 2-0. After stretching his lead to 4-1, Federer provoked two errors from Fish to take command of the tiebreaker at 6-1. Next with an ace, Federer leveled the match at one set a piece and forced a decisive set.