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.
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.
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.
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.
The is in your court.