MASON, Ohio — Roger Federer finds a lot to like about Cincinnati – the big crowds for his matches, the quiet time away from the court, the way his game seems to come together on the fast, blue courts.
Probably helps that he often takes home the trophy, too.
Make it five for Federer.
The world’s top-ranked player won a record fifth Cincinnati title Sunday, dominating second-ranked Novak Djokovic in an unprecedented way at the start of a 6-0, 7-6 (7) win for the Western & Southern Open championship.
The 31-year-old Swiss star has enjoyed many of his one-week visits. None was better than the latest.
“Looking back, it’s just unbelievable,” Federer said. “This was probably the best week for me here in Cincinnati. I didn’t lose a set. This is very sweet, no doubt about it.”
Federer heads to the U.S. Open feeling healthy and fine-tuned. He skipped the Rogers Cup in Toronto last week, giving himself some time to recover from the Olympics in London.
He’s also regained the upper hand against one of the players who stands in his way.
Djokovic had put together a run of three straight wins over Federer in tournament semifinals, starting with the U.S. Open last year. Federer turned it around by beating the Serb in the semis at Wimbledon last month.
They got together in a finals match for the seventh time in their careers Sunday. They’d split the previous six, with Federer winning the only Grand Slam championship match <0x2014> the U.S. Open in 2007.
Quickly, the latest one became a bit of personal history. They’ve never had such a lopsided day together on the court.
Ranked No. 1 and No. 2, perhaps, but worlds apart on this day.
Federer won the first set in only 20 minutes, allowing Djokovic just 10 points. It was the first time in their 28 career matches that one of them took a set 6-0. For perspective, Federer hadn’t beaten anybody 6-0 in a tournament final since 2007.
Both players seemed a bit stunned.
“I was hoping for a good start, but not like that,” Federer said.
Perhaps Djokovic’s schedule had something to do with it. After the Olympics, he went right to Toronto and won the Rogers Cup last Sunday. He didn’t expect to make it to a second final in eight days.
“It was a final today, so I really wanted to win,” Djokovic said. “There is no question about it. Maybe playing couple weeks in a row, four weeks in a row, got to me maybe mentally. Physically it didn’t. I felt OK on the court.”
Both reached the final in a dominating style <0x2014> neither lost their serve or a set during the week.
Federer put an end to that right away.
Helped by a double-fault, Federer broke Djokovic’s serve to start the match. Then, aided by two more double-faults, he broke him again to go up 3-0. Djokovic went to his chair at the break and grabbed a different racket, hoping to change the flow of the match.
Made no difference whatsoever. Federer served back-to-back aces that Djokovic couldn’t touch with that new racket.
It was domination all around <0x2014> Djokovic had 10 unforced errors in the opening set, the same number of points he won. The Serb had four double-faults, each one setting up a break point or ending a game.
The fans gave Djokovic a loud ovation when he held serve to open the second set. The Serb looked up at the crowd and smiled while sipping water.
Djokovic showed more energy in the second set but never put much pressure on Federer, who didn’t face a break point. After a forehand sailed way long, Djokovic raised his arms, reared back and screamed. Now fully engaged in the match, he took the set to a tiebreaker.
Djokovic survived one match point and got one point away from taking the tiebreaker. Federer ran off the last three points, closing it out with a forehand.
“At the end, I just snatched it,” Federer said.
Federer improved to 5-0 in Cincinnati finals and tied Rafael Nadal for the most Masters titles with 21. Nadal dropped out of the tournament with a sore knee that has sidelined him indefinitely.
The loss snapped Djokovic’s streak of 15 straight wins on hard courts, an encouraging sign heading into the Open. He figured the only thing lacking for New York was a little rest.
“I feel good on the court,” Djokovic said. “The conditions here are quite different from the U.S. Open. It’s a bit slower there, which I think goes in my favor a little bit more. More suitable to my style of the game.
“I’m going to have a week that I think is very necessary for me right now mentally and physically.”