Cilic Stops Murray to Win First Masters Title in Cincinnati

Greetings. I hope everyone enjoyed the tennis in Cincinnati this week. I thought it was quite an interesting week even though my favorite Djokovic was absent. It made the tournament more open especially with the top players who went deep in the Olympics tiring and losing early as well.

They included Nadal and Nishikori who both lost in the third round against Coric and Tomic respectively. Nishikori lost in two tiebreaks but Nadal looked especially lackluster as Coric made short work of him 6-1, 6-3.

It was a good week for Coric who made quarterfinals of a Masters event for the first time but unfortunately, he had to retire in his match with Cilic. Johnson also had a solid run to the quarterfinals before falling to Dimitrov and he is now the top-ranked American at #21.

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As for Dimitrov, he won four consecutive matches for the first time since making the Wimbledon semis in 2014 when he made the semis in Cincy. So he will feel very happy with his week despite losing 6-4, 3-6, 5-7 to Cilic after Cilic served at only 44% first serves.

Thiem made quarterfinals as well where his fast court game got exposed by Raonic who defeated him 6-3, 6-4. Thiem will never be a great fast court player but fortunately for him, there are very few fast courts around these days.

In the other quarterfinal, Murray defeated Tomic 6-4, 6-4. And in the top half semis, Murray continued to look impressive when he defeated Raonic 6-3, 6-3 and in the process, he exposed Raonic’s weak backhand.

  • The Final

So we were all set for a final between Murray and Cilic with Murray the overwhelming favorite. I was quite impressed with Murray throughout the week who was now on a 22-match winning streak and didn’t drop a set throughout the week.

It looked like he had taken over from Djokovic because the best someone did against him in a set was 6-4. I was impressed but as a Djokovic fan, I was concerned as well. Murray came from Rio where he won the gold medal the week before and didn’t look bothered at all in Cincy while players like Nadal and Nishikori fell early.

To add to that he played the first semi-final which started late at 7pm local time which meant that Cilic wouldn’t get much rest after a tough battle against Dimitrov. It was also Cilic’s first Masters final.

Cilic did well at the beginning of the match, however, to get over the nerves of a first Masters final and then did even better by breaking Murray twice to go up 5-2 and serve for the first set.

Murray got one break back but Cilic had no problem holding serve the second time to win the first set 6-4. It was ‘match on’. At the start of the second set, you could sense urgency from Murray as he began with those annoying ‘Come on!’ utterances again.

It is his way of trying to intimidate his opponent the same way Nadal tries to intimidate with those over the top fist pumps. Cilic handled it well who responded with a loud ‘Come on!’ of his own whenever he won a big point.

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It really is the easiest thing to counter but I guess some pros are too PR conscious these days and refrain from doing so. What a joke! That said, Cilic almost did choke at 5-5 and 40-15 on Murray’s serve.

He missed a shocker of a forehand and I thought here comes Choker Cilic again just like he did at Wimbledon against Federer and many times before. He missed three break points in that game but fortunately he eventually took advantage of one and got the break.

I think he then served out the match with relative ease to win 6-4, 7-5.

  • Conclusions

Congrats to Cilic then on his first Masters title in his first Masters final against someone who seemed unstoppable. In the end, it was a case of an attacking player who was on his game hitting a defensive player off the court.

Sure, tiredness could have played a part for Murray but he didn’t look bothered at all through the week and Cilic was the one who played the second semi that went deep into a third set.

We have seen this kind of thing happen plenty of times with Nadal as well where he gets hit off the court by a big hitter who is on his game. Nadal and Murray are very similar in certain respects.

They are predominantly defensive players which can backfire when they play against these types of opponents. You don’t see this as much with Federer or Djokovic. Some people think Djokovic is also a defensive player but he if an offensive player in many ways.

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This was a couple of days ago so Murray will be at 22

Most importantly, he turns defense into offense much better than Nadal or Murray. Nadal and Murray tend to be more negative in their approach which is why something like today can happen.

There is a subtle difference between what they do in defense and what Djokovic does in defense which I think is important to understand. Murray has become less negative since Lendl came back but today he was exposed.

It’s been a great run from him anyway and he certainly has a shot at winning the US Open again. Today’s loss just puts some doubt in my mind again. Up until the final, he looked very threatening to Djokovic.

You could even say he looked like the favorite for the US Open. But you can’t just write Djokovic off who had a couple of losses. That’s nothing. It’s just that expectations are huge for him after what he achieved.

I think skipping Cincy was the right decision even though it potentially cost him the career Masters. I hear he still has some problems with his left wrist and his body and mind needed rest from all the tennis.

Hopefully, he just comes back and shuts down all this Murray hype with a third US Open title but I am just looking forward to having him back again. Even as a fan, I was getting bored of his dominance so for me this break was also a good thing.

I know the hardcore fans can never understand that but I think for tennis it is also good to see new faces and someone else winning big titles even if it is Murray. Yeah, I’m not a fan but he also provides Djokovic with a new challenge.

Well, the US Open is only one week away now and I’m grateful that they will have a roof this year because judging from all the rain in Cincy we will have some more in New York.

I am very much looking forward to the final slam of 2016 and I will be back with a draw post over the weekend. Let me know what you think!

  • Highlights

Who is the US Open favourite?

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Federer Surprises Djokovic to Win 7th Cincinnati Title

Congrats to Federer on a much deserved seventh title in Cincinnati yesterday. I can easily say I told you so, that Federer had it coming after losing three big finals to Djokovic, or that it was inevitable with the Cincinnati court speed. I mean let’s face it, Federer keeps winning the matches on faster courts over the best of three sets. But I’d rather focus on the fact that Federer surprised Djokovic in my opinion.

  • Opening Set

Federer tried the surprise tactic of taking the second serve on the rise early on and it was a big flop. It actually had me laughing. Taking the second serve of the likes of Anderson, Lopez, and Murray on the rise is one thing, but not only does Djokovic have a good second serve, he also has great passing shots. So when Federer tried the tactic again and actually won the point, it surprised me.

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It also surprised Djokovic because he missed a straightforward passing shot into the net. Federer was the one applying all the pressure to Djokovic’s serve and had him 15-40 early on but couldn’t convert. He had him at 30-40 in another game as well. As the set progressed Djokovic started holding serve more comfortably and I figured those early missed chances by Federer would come back to haunt him.

But when the set came down to a tie-break Federer had the audacity to take Djokovic’s second serve on the rise again. It paid off again and that seemed to be the straw that broke the camel’s back because Djokovic only managed to win one point in the tie-break. Advantage Federer.

  • Second Set

How would Djokovic respond to these audacious tactics from Federer? Not well. He got broken in his opening service game and quickly found himself 0-3 down. After that he still kind of hung in there but never looked very interested in fighting back. Whether it was just tiredness or the fact that Federer’s tactics took him totally by surprise I’ll leave to you to decide. It was probably a bit of both.

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I think he was caught off guard and then he pretty much decided to throw in the towel. He’d already had four very tough three setters in the last couple of weeks and he probably just figured he will conserve some energy for once. As usual he was very sporting at the handshake, though. No bitterness like we have seen plenty of times from Fedal.

  • Final Thoughts

So it was a well-deserved first Masters title of the year for Federer and he played very well all week. I liked the fact that he tried something new with taking the second serve on the rise. Of course, it didn’t hurt that the surface was fast and it would be very hard to do the same thing at the US Open without getting passed, but it was something fresh and only Federer is talented enough to pull off something crazy like that.

I also think Federer has been playing too well this year not to win something above ATP 500 level. The level he showed at Wimbledon was as good as anything he has ever played. He’s been consistent all year but falling over the final hurdle in the big events, very much like last year. I think if Djokovic defeated him in Cincy it would have really hurt. It would also have been the first time either of them had won four matches in a row in this tremendous rivalry which Federer leads by one again.

It’s really so much better than the overrated Fedal rivalry as well as the Djokoray rivalry because the matchup is perfect. A great server against a great returner. A great offensive player against a great defensive player. With this title, Federer is also back on equal terms with Djokovic in terms of Masters titles with 24. Nadal is still leading with 27 Masters titles, but he will easily be surpassed by Djokovic.

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Djokovic also loses for the fifth time in the Cincy finals and misses out on the career Masters again, but I’m sure he’ll get it eventually. For now this loss may have been a blessing in disguise. Someone told me on Twitter that Djokovic became cocky and expected to win. I actually think that may be true. And you can hardly blame him after the way he won all the important titles against Federer this year.

Nonetheless, losing now and then, even when you are dominating is a good way to stay humble and motivated. I think with the eye on the one that really matters in New York, it may have been better for Djokovic to lose this one than to win it. He will still have many chances to complete the career Masters, but for now winning the US Open is huge. One US Open title is not good enough for a player of his qualities and winning his tenth slam in New York will put him right on track to get into the GOAT debate.

It sure as hell won’t be easy, but I think it is better for his chances to taste defeat now and stay hungry and motivated. Now he has something to prove, as opposed to having won Cincy and everyone just expecting him to collect the US Open trophy. He has been so dominant this year that he is still easily the favorite for the title, but now at least he will feel like he has something to prove again. Two Masters final losses would be a good exchange for another US Open title.

Edit: Federer won the first four matches in the rivalry, but I think you catch my drift.

  • Highlights

The is in your court.

Djokovic and Federer to Face Off in Third Cincinnati Masters Final

Well, it was another dramatic day of tennis in Cincinnati in which Djokovic and Federer prevailed to meet for the 41st time in the head-to-head which is currently tied up at 20-20. It is also the third time they will meet in the Cincy final with Federer having won the first two. Here is how it played out today.

  • Djokovic Makes Another Great Escape

How does he keep doing it? After coming out flat and playing a pretty average first set Djokovic soon found himself down 4-6. He then did the hard work to break at 4-3 and served for the second set at 5-3, but got broken right back. They headed into a tie-break in which Djokovic went a mini-break down right away. He got the mini-break back but at 4-4 he dropped his serve again and now he was in desperate trouble with a rabid Dog serving at 5-4.

But like the saying goes, when the going gets tough the tough gets going. Djokovic got the mini-break right back and at 5-5 a brutal rally ensued which Djokovic finally won after an unforced error from The Dog. Then serving at 6-5 another long rally ensued which Djokovic finally won with a crosscourt forehand winner to clinch the crucial second set. The dude is just incredibly clutch and never surrenders.

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After Djokovic squared things up it was always likely that he would run away with the third set which he did 6-2. Like I said in my last post The Dog is a talented player who can beat anyone on a given day so it wasn’t all that surprising that he pushed Djokovic to his very limits. But it also has to be said that Djokovic looked sluggish from the start and only did what he needed to get the win.

And it’s not surprising that he looked uninspired coming out of the blocks given all the tennis he played of late and this year. People were already saying after he did the Indian Wells/Miami double that he was burned out, but he just keeps digging deep and finding another gear. It’s inspiring stuff. And unlike Murray he is able to consistently come up with the goods when the going gets tough.

  • Murray Fails Once More Against Federer

Unlike Djokovic, Murray was not able to come up with the goods in the second set tie-break as he lost 6-4, 7-6(6) to Federer. This is now his fifth consecutive loss to Federer and you would have thought after the Wimbledon humiliation that perhaps he would show a bit more urgency. But since the start he was on his own case again, berating himself and scolding his camp. He also wasn’t nearly offensive enough.

Just no belief. Only right at the end in the breaker did he make a couple of fist pumps but by then it was too late. And now you know why Djokovic has won nine slams and Murray two. It’s all in the self-belief and positive body language, which Murray has very little of. He has all the talent in the world but he is just way too negative out there and way too often he resorts to pushing instead of taking the initiative.

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Not to take anything away from Federer, but by now we know exactly what to expect from him in Cincy and so should Murray. Murray was sitting at the changeover after losing the first set telling himself: ‘So FLAT, so FLAT!’ just to make sure his opponent and the rest of the world knows it. How exactly is that going to help him win the match? Well, it didn’t. He lost and he deserved to.

  • Final Preview

Now then. It’s time for Djokerer 41.0 and are we going to see a repeat of what happened at Wimbledon this year from the semis onward? It’s doubtful. I think this will prove to be one too many for the Djoker. He did fantastically well to even make the final but at the cost of another brutal encounter that drained his last little bit of energy. I don’t see how he will have anything left in the tank for the final.

It’s ok. Federer can have this one anyway. He didn’t play Montreal like Djokovic and all his opponents aside from Murray rolled over cheaply in Cincy. Look, even at 34 he will still have plenty left in the tank. And besides, Djokovic won in Indian Wells, Rome, and Wimbledon. It would probably be better for the Djoker to get schooled quickly in straight sets so that he has something left for New York.

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Damn right!

I can already hear some of you saying that I said the same thing before the Wimby final and that I am trying to jinx. But this is clearly a very different situation. Here’s why:

  1. Federer won both their previous meetings in the Cincy final in straight sets, and that includes two bakery products.
  2. It is best of three which isn’t a physical disadvantage for Federer at his age.
  3. On top of that Federer skipped Montreal and is fresh as a daisy while Djokovic has had a brutal two weeks which included four brutal three-set matches.
  4. The surface may be even more favorable to Federer than at Wimbledon. My reasoning behind that being that Djokovic has never won the Cincy title while he’s won three Wimby titles.
  5. Federer won the finals in Shanghai last year and Dubai this year which are similar surfaces to Cincy. Over the best of three on fast surfaces he has had the better of Djokovic.

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So close but yet so far…

I think those are more than enough reasons for Federer to be the favorite for the final. Clearly it is a very different situation than Wimby was. Obviously Djokovic badly wants this title to complete the career Masters and do something neither Federer nor Nadal could do, but I think it will prove to be one too many. It’s going to be a tough loss because it will be the third time he loses to Federer in the Cincy final.

But like I said it wouldn’t hurt too much knowing that he won the important matches in Indian Wells, Rome, and especially Wimbledon. You can’t win them all. You just have to accept that everyone has their limits. Federer has played very well this year and the Wimby final loss must have hurt. He probably deserves to win something bigger than an ATP 500. And of course if he does he will be the second seed for the US Open.

Should be another interesting match!

  • Highlights

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1zHDAcK3144

The is in your court.