Big win over an old neme­sis

Djokovic beats Fed­erer for first Cincin­nati tour­na­ment ti­tle

The Western Star - - SPORTS - BY JOE KAY

No­vak Djokovic gave his racket to a fan and tossed his sweat­bands into the stands. No need for me­men­tos from this vic­tory. The long-awaited Rookwood pot­tery tro­phy would be plenty.

Djokovic fi­nally mas­tered the one tour­na­ment that’s eluded him, beat­ing neme­sis Roger Fed­erer 6-4, 6-4 on Sun­day for his first Western & South­ern Open cham­pi­onship.

He got the bet­ter of a nos­tal­gic re­match - they hadn’t played in two years be­cause of in­juries - and broke through in a tour­na­ment that Fed­erer has won seven times, never los­ing a ti­tle match.

“Thank you for let­ting me win once in Cincin­nati,” he told Fed­erer as they stood on court for the tro­phy pre­sen­ta­tion.

Af­ter reach­ing the fi­nal five times and los­ing ev­ery time - three to Fed­erer - Djokovic jumped and punched the air in cel­e­bra­tion of his break­through. He’s the first to claim all nine ATP Masters 1000 events since the se­ries started in 1990, some­thing that had be­come his quest af­ter so many close calls.

“That’s what the head­line should be about - this is such an amaz­ing ac­com­plish­ment,” Fed­erer said. “He’s the first to do it. I think it’s very dif­fi­cult to win Masters 1000s. These per­for­mances don’t come easy.”

Djokovic leads their all-time se­ries 24-22, do­ing bet­ter in the big­gest matches. He’s 3-1 against Fed­erer in Grand Slam fi­nals and 12-6 over­all in cham­pi­onship matches, in­clud­ing wins at Wim­ble­don and the U.S. Open in 2015.

Djokovic com­pleted a long come­back from el­bow prob­lems by win­ning his fourth Wim­ble­don ti­tle last month, then set out to get his hard­court game in or­der for the U.S. Open. He got bet­ter as the rainy week went on in Cincin­nati, play­ing his best at the end.

“This seems to be a bit un­real, to be hon­est, to be back at this level,” he said.

Fed­erer’s serve had been un­touch­able all week - held for 46 con­sec­u­tive games. Djokovic broke that streak to go up 4-3 in the open­ing set, prompt­ing Fed­erer to mut­ter an­grily. Djokovic served out the set, and then traded breaks with Fed­erer early in the sec­ond set.

Fed­erer’s game was off - 28 un­forced er­rors - and Djokovic took full ad­van­tage. He broke him again to go up 4-3 and served it out.

In the women’s bracket, top-ranked Si­mona Halep let a match point slip away dur­ing the sec­ond-set tiebreaker, and Kiki Bertens ral­lied for a 2-6, 7-6 (6), 6-2 vic­tory in her first hard-court fi­nal.

Bertens served a 109 mph ace, flipped her racket away, fell to her knees and raised both arms.

Mo­ments later, she cov­ered her face for a joy­ous cry, wip­ing the tears away with her sweat­soaked blue wrist­band.

One point away from an­other loss, she had pulled off her big­gest win, one that left her as stunned as ev­ery­one else.

“I can­not find words for this mo­ment,” she said.

AP PHOTO

No­vak Djokovic re­turns a shot to Roger Fed­erer dur­ing the men’s fi­nal at the Western & South­ern Open tennis tour­na­ment Sun­day in Mason, Ohio.

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