The 41st edition of the second longest rivalry in tenniz history will be contested as the top two seeds, World number One Novak Djokovic and the Swiss maestro Roger Fededer go head to head in a match which break the current deadlock at 20-20. There is an additional incentive for both players as Djokovic stands on the threshold of becoming the only player in the history of the game to complete the full set of all active nine Super Series, while Federer will clinch his seventh title in Cincinnati at the Western and Southern Open.
On semifinal saturday, in the first match of the day, Novak Djokovic came within two points of elimination before rallying to beat the Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov 4-6,7-6(5),6-2. Nicknamed “The Dog”, the first qualifier in 20 years at this event, Dolgopolov took an early 2-1 lead only for Djokovic to level the score at 3-3 with the courtesy of two double faults from Dolgopolov.
He would then break in the ninth game and build on it to seal the first set 6-4. The second set too seesawed as both players wasted opportunities to clinch the set and things eventually headed to the tie-break. The Ukrainian took a 3-0 lead only for Djokovic to level the tie-break 3-3 at the change of ends. He raised his game when it mattered and took the tie-break 7-5. Once Djokovic evened the match, the final result was never in doubt as Dolgopolov crumbled against the determined Serb who raced away with the third set 6-2.
In the second semi-final of the day, a repeat of this year’s Wimbledon semi-final, Andy Murray would have sealed the second seeding at the U.S. Open with a win over Federer – whose absence at Montreal coupled with a third Roger’s Cup title for Murray ensures that the Swiss will need to win the final to ensure he and Djokovic are in different halves of the draw at the Flushing Meadows in New York. The match was completely dominated by Federer against a jaded Murray.
An early break in the first set was all it needed for the refreshed Federer who is still to drop service in four matches. He took the first set 6-4 and from there on, Murray threw everything he had to keep Federer at bay. One sensed that even the slightest of slip-ups from Murray would open the floodgates for the Federer game to flow uninhibitedly to completely sink the Murray ship.
There was a lifeline for Murray at the very end of the second set tie-break as Murray was within two points of forcing the decider. However Federer shut the door out on that glimmer of hope and notched his fourteenth win over the Scott by taking the next two points and the tie-break at 8-6.
Preview Of The Final
The final on Sunday is the fourth meeting of the year between the two greatest hard court players of this millennium, with Djokovic leading 3-1. Federer won the Dubai final while Djokovic reigned supreme at Indian Wells, Rome and at Wimbledon. The Serb has won six titles this year at Melbourne, Miami and Monte Carlo apart from the wins against Federer. The Swiss won in Brisbane, Dubai, Istanbul and Halle. Djokovic has a 56-4 record for the year while Federer is at 44-7.
Djokovic has dropped two sets this week, one each to the Belgian David Goffin and to Dolgopolov, while Federer has yet to drop a service game in four straight sets win. Djokovic has lost four finals in Cincinnati, and the added pressure of being the sole holder of the record may just tilt the tie in favour of the Swiss who turned 34 on August 8, 2015.
On the plus side for Djokovic – the quest for completing the full set of Masters tournaments should give him the additional motivation to bring his A+ game to the final. Djokovic has been playing at a lesser level than the stellar form he has displayed up to Wimbledon and the last match before US Open would be a good time to not only further enhance his legacy but to send a strong message to the field that he is still the one to beat.
Prediction: Federer has displayed the best tennis of the tournament, however he has been struggling to get across the final hurdle that is Djokovic, in the big tournaments. Federer will, in all probability, get off to an impressive start, but the smart money would be on Djokovic to complete his full set of Masters 1000. Djokovic in 3 sets.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy.You can reach him at the email: firstname.lastname@example.org]