OHIO: Roger Federer jutted his right index finger toward the summer-blue sky to celebrate his latest Cincinnati title. He would have needed both hands to count all of them.
Might as well just rename it the Federer Open. Or maybe subtitle it the Djokovic Heartbreak.
Federer remained perfect in Cincinnati finals, winning an unprecedented seventh championship on Sunday while denying Novak Djokovic the one title that always eludes him. Federer never faced a break point during a 7-6 (1), 6-3 victory at the Western & Southern Open.
Serena Williams got her name on the Rookwood trophy for the second time on Sunday, beating third-seeded Simona Halep 6-3, 7-6 (5) for back-to-back Cincinnati titles.
She heads off to the U.S. Open trying to become the first player since Steffi Graf in 1988 to pull off a calendar Grand Slam sweep.
“I’m ready,” Williams said. “I don’t care if I win or lose or break even. I’m ready to start it, get it over with, and be done and go on to the next event. But I’m so ready for New York. Let’s go, right?”
It took Williams six tries before she got her first Cincinnati title. Federer has never failed.
The Swiss star is 7-0 in the finals, which always brings out the best in him. He loves the fast-playing courts and the small-town atmosphere in suburban Cincinnati heading into the big-city pressure of the U.S. Open.
“I don’t know how many years I can come back, but I’ll try my best to be here many more years to come,” Federer said.
No surprise there. Federer is the undisputed king of this court.
“He’s very good on this center court,” Djokovic said. “He’s more confident each year.”
By contrast, the world’s top-ranked player is 0-5 in Cincinnati championship matches, never winning so much as one set. Djokovic covets the title the only one he needs to become the first to win all nine of the current ATP Masters events.
“The fifth time I’ve been in the title (match) and never won this title, so I guess I have to wait for Roger to retire,” Djokovic said. “I’ve been coming back each year wanting it more.”
“I really hope you can win here someday,” Federer told him on court during the trophy presentations. “He deserves it. C’mon, so close.”
In addition to Cincinnati, Federer has won seven titles at Dubai and Wimbledon, eight at Halle.
It was Federer’s first tournament since he lost to Djokovic in the finals at Wimbledon. With the win, he’ll be seeded second behind Djokovic at the U.S. Open.
Federer spent the last few weeks practicing in Switzerland, and he arrived in Cincinnati hoping to get his game smoothed out for the U.S. Open. His serve is right where he needs it. During his five matches in Cincinnati, Federer wasn’t broken during 49 service games.
He faced only three break points all week, none on Sunday when he lost only 13 points during his 11 service games and the tiebreaker. Federer also won the 2012 title without having his serve broken all week.
Djokovic fought off four break points early in the first set, and Federer never gave up more than two points a game off his serve as it went to a tiebreaker.
Djokovic became animated as he dumped three shots into the net during the tiebreaker, helping Federer take control. At that point, it was clear where this one was head.
Halep was the runner-up at Toronto a week earlier and was hoping to beat Williams for the second time in less than a year, she upset her at the WTA Finals in October.
Halep broke Williams’ serve to open the match, but couldn’t sustain it.
Williams won four of the last six points in the tiebreaker, finishing it when Halep sliced a backhand shot into the net. And then, the talk about the Grand Slam sweep began.
“I know you can do four,” Halep told her during the trophy presentation.