Djokovic eyes history in Cincinnati final
Serena recovers to reach another Cincinnati WTA final
World No. 1 Novak Djokovic will be aiming for a slice of ATP history on Sunday when he takes on six-time champion Roger Federer in the ATP Cincinnati Masters final.
Djokovic battled back to beat Ukrainian qualifier Alexandr Dolgopolov 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 on Saturday to set up his 41st career meeting with Federer — who dispatched last week’s Montreal winner Andy Murray 6-4, 7-6 (8/6).
Djokovic, seeking a 20th ATP Masters 1000 title, will try to claim his first trophy on the hard courts of Cincinnati after losing in the final four times.
With a win he’d become the first player to triumph in all nine of the ATP’s elite Masters 1000 events — a feat that Federer said would be “quite unbelievable.”
“I gave myself another chance to fight for the trophy,” Djokovic said. “That was the goal and that was the wish coming here in Cincinnati.
“Obviously the last couple of years it was always in the back of my mind, the potential history making, and obviously that motivates me even more.
“Having that in back of my mind helped me to go through matches like one today.”
But Djokovic said he’d have to play better than he did against 66th-ranked Dolgopolov.
Although Djokovic gained the upper hand in the second set with a break for a 5-3 lead, the Ukrainian promptly broke back to push the set to a tiebreak in which Dolgopolov led 3-0 and 5-4 before Djokovic managed to level the match at a set apiece.
From there, Djokovic took control, breaking Dolgopolov twice for a 4- 1 lead in the third en route to the victory in two hours and 20 minutes.
The outcome mirrored their most recent meeting, in which Djokovic defeated Dolgopolov 6-7 (3/7), 7-5, 6-0 in the round of 16 at the Miami Masters.
Along the way Djokovic received on-court treatment early in the second set for tightness in his abdomen. But the Serbian star said the trouble was nothing to worry about with the U.S. Open approaching in nine days.
“It’s OK, nothing major,” Djokovic said.
Djokovic and Federer are even with 20 wins apiece in 40 prior career meetings.
Djokovic has won the last three, including last month’s Wimbledon final.
“I’m excited to be in another final,” said Federer, who has beaten Djokovic in two Cincinnati finals. “It’s the ultimate test to play Novak, he’s had a great run the last few years.”
Federer’s win over Murray was his fifth straight over the Scot.
The 34-year-old Swiss earned the opening set with a break in the third game but had to duel in a tiebreaker to claim another straightsets win and secure his spot in the final on his second match point without the loss of serve this week.
“I got off to a good start in the first set,” said Federer, whose impressive Cincinnati record stands at 41-8. “It was my first day match so I had to be focused to the conditions.
“In the second there were not that many chances. I focused on serve. It was great to hold against a quality player like Andy. I tried to mix up the second serve and today it worked pretty well.
Winning the semifinal also opens the door for Federer to steal back the ATP No. 2 ranking which Murray claimed this week after his victory in Montreal.
With a seventh
title he would World No. 1 Serena Williams came from a break down in the opening set to produce a patchy 6-4, 6-3 win Saturday over Elina Svitolina to reach the WTA final in Cincinnati.
The top seed was far from efficient in the semifinal, appearing to lose her way on some shots, before squeezing through for a chance at a second consecutive Cincinnati title.
In Sunday’s final she will face Romanian third seed Simona Halep, who crushed former champion Jelena Jankovic of Serbia 6-1, 6-2.
Halep will also return to No. 2 in the world behind Williams as a result of her win and will take the second seeding at the U.S. Open starting in nine days.
The 33-year-old Williams — who will be trying to secure a rare calendar Grand Slam when the U.S. Open begins on Aug. 31 — blamed her stuttering form on an elbow injury she has had for several months.
“I haven’t served much since the French Open because I’ve had an elbow problem,” Williams said. “Even before the French I didn’t serve much until the day before the tournament started.
“I’ve been dealing with that for a long time. I’ll get through regardless.
“I don’t know how I turned the match around. I got off to a super slow start. But I managed to start going for my shots. I just told myself to dig deep.”
Williams won her 47th match return to No. 2 in time to gain the second seeding at the U.S. Open, which begins on Aug. 31.
“I won’t lose sleep over it,” Mur- against just two defeats this season.
“I just need to serve with aplomb, and I’m not doing that right now.”
The 21-time Grand Slam singles champion improved to 20-4 at Cincinnati, the last major event prior to the start of the year’s final Grand Slam at Flushing Meadows.
She will be playing her third Cin- ray said of the ranking. “Obviously I would rather be ranked No. 2 going (into the U.S. Open).”
Murray said the defeat carried cinnati final in a row and aiming for her fifth title this season. She hammered nine aces but had eight double faults.
Halep has beaten Williams twice in the last two seasons, including an Indian Wells semifinal in March. She goes into the final without pressure but dealing with some pain in her left leg.
“I have the pain but
it doesn’t one positive — the chance to get an extra days’ rest.
“I need that,” he said. “I played a lot of tennis the last couple of matter when I play well. I only have one more match here and then I can recover for the Open,” said Halep.
“Serena is the best player and I have no pressure. Reaching No. 2 doesn’t matter to me much.
“I just want to win the match. I have confidence to win, maybe that’s why I played my best tennis tonight.” weeks, and obviously a lot of the other guys that have been playing a lot didn’t participate in the Davis Cup this year either.”
Serena Williams, of the United States, reacts during a semifinal match against Elina Svitolina, of Ukraine, at the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament, in Mason, Ohio, Saturday, Aug. 22.
Andy Murray, of the United Kingdom, tosses the ball to serve to Roger Federer, of Switzerland, during a semifinal match at the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament in Mason, Ohio, Saturday, Aug. 22.