It was just five minutes into Sunday's Cincinnati Masters final, and Roger Federer not only looked like the favorite for the title, but for the U.S. Open as well.
Within 20 minutes, he bageled a very sluggish Novak Djokovic.
Federer defeated Djokovic 6-0, 7-6 (7) to win his 21st Masters title. It was his first hard-court win over Djokovic since November 2010.
According to The Associated Press (h/t ESPN), Federer feels very confident moving ahead after playing well this past week:
"Looking back, it's just unbelievable. 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."
All in all, Roger Federer is having a season to remember. He's back on top of the rankings, won his first Grand Slam in two years and is on track for his first U.S. Open title since 2008.
His playing level in Cincinnati is proof that Federer is over his disappointing Olympic final defeat to Andy Murray. In an interview with Chris Fowler and Brad Gilbert of ESPN last week, he said there were other factors he faced that day, citing fatigue. He also said he was outplayed by a player used to pressure.
Despite the silver medal, Federer doesn't dwell on heartbreaking matches.
He has been arguably the greatest male player of the Open Era because of how he is able to come back from defeat.
One of the most memorable examples of this was in 2009, when the Swiss maestro was tearing up during the trophy ceremony in Australia after losing to Rafael Nadal in five sets.
In the next Grand Slam event, he took advantage of Nadal's early exit and won his first French Open title to complete his career Grand Slam. He then put his 2009 U.S. Open final loss behind him, came roaring back and brought home his 16th Grand Slam title in Australia in early 2010.
This doesn't mean Federer's U.S. Open title will come as easily as it did in Cincinnati. Djokovic looked flat right before the Open last year, and still managed to defeat Federer after trailing 3-5 in the final set. Look for Djokovic to come out of his midseason slump.
Don't count out Andy Murray, either. The Scot will be hungrier than ever to get his first Grand Slam title. The U.S. Open was a breakthrough, and where he reached his first final.
As he did at Wimbledon, expect Federer to have some scares along the way.
However, the bottom line is that if Federer plays like his vintage self, it's really hard to picture anyone else hoisting the trophy.
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