World No. 1 Roger Federer beat the newly-crowned No. 2 and defending champion Andy Murray in straight sets, 6-2, 7-6 (8), on Saturday to reach the Cincinnati Masters finals. The Swiss will be bidding for his third title on Sunday.
More than leveling the head-to-head record, Federer appeared poised to win the match.
"It doesn't matter to me. "I'm past that point. People try to hype it up, but I don't read anything into it. I know my game's on, and when my game's on, I know I can beat any player in the world."
Most surprisingly, Federer's first serve was only 36 percent when he broke Murray twice in the first set, in the fourth and eighth games, out of six break opportunities.
The Swiss did not lose a single point when his serve went in, winning eight out of eight points in the first serve.
Federer started strongly, firing his forehand shots with geometrical precision. Murray apparently found himself in an unaccustomed situation, particularly in comparison to their previous six meetings, and he hardly got to the ball on a number of times.
On the other hand, the Scot looked tired and started the match sloppily, which allowed Federer to have upper hand from the beginning.
"I just started a little bit sluggish and then managed to find my game [after the first set]. I don't know if that's a sort of mental fatigue thing or not just playing consecutive days a lot," said Murray.
Although Murray served 10 percent better than Federer in the first set, the Swiss found a handle on the Scot's serves and returned them well, pounding on them and ending the point quickly on a couple of occasions.
"If you let Roger play well, then he's very, very difficult to beat," Murray said. "I mean, the first set, I was leaving the ball short and giving him a lot of second serves to look at and not making a whole lot of returns, so therefore, I was unable to put any pressure on him. He was going for his shots because I was leaving the ball in the middle of the court."
Federer won 46 percent of the points in return in the first set, and with the returning strength, he was able to break once again at the end and close out the first set easily.
However, Murray held his composure and played a very competitive second set, denying Federer any break opportunity and sending it to a tiebreaker (watch here). Federer took early mini-break and ran with a 4-1 lead, but the Scot made an enormous comeback, winning five of the next next six points, 6-5, and had a chance to take the set.
Federer had his first match point at 7-6, but, after a brief exchange of rally, he hits long and misses the oportunity. Murray got second chance for winning the set at 8-7 but missed his backhand passing shot by several feet.
In the entire tie break, neither Murray had a set point on his serve nor Federer had a match point on his serve. One of them had to give in at some point. At 8-9, Murray was serving to stay in the match but, unfortunately, double-faulted to lose the match.
"I was just happy that I managed to keep it close in the second set, because I returned poorly and served poorly," said Murray, who had one set point in the tiebreaker at 8-7 but squandered as his backhand went wide.
"Against Roger, if you do both of those things, it's going to be very difficult."
It was Federer's third victory over the Scot in their nine meetings.
"In the end, I felt like I deserved to win because I wasn't afraid to go after shots," Federer said.
With this crucial victory over the rising Murray, Federer will face Novak Djikovic in Sunday's final.
Regardless of tomorrow's result, Federer will head to the U.S. Open with confidence to bid for a title for the record sixth consecutive time. As it is, the five-time champion at the Flushing Meadows is already a favorite, but this win against a player who had beaten him six times in the past must give him extra confidence.
Federer did not miss out the opportunity to lavish praise on the much improved Scot and to look into the tomorrow's final.
“He’s [Murray] just been very consistent, and it takes a great performance to beat him these days. That’s what I was able to do today. I know it could be different, but right now obviously it helps my confidence. But I have to focus on what’s to come, and this is the final tomorrow. The tournament is not won yet, even though I beat the second best player in the world right now. We’ll see how it goes.”
In an interesting hypothetical ranking scenario, after Murray's loss in today's semifinals to Federer, he will be limited to 9610 ranking points. Had Nadal beat Djokovic today and gone on to win the title on Sunday, the Spaniard would have 9665 and would reclaim No. 2 right away, ending the Scot's new ranking before being ever seeded as No. 2.
Spirited Djokovic beat the Spaniard in straight set, 6-1, 6-4, in the repeat semifinal of last year, with the same result, and reached the Cincinnati Masters final for the second time in a row.
Murray's No.2 ranking and seeding are safe for the US Open, courtesy of the Serb's victory over Nadal.