Until halfway through this year, the Great Swiss seemed to struggle in the Masters Series events.
Unlike in the majors, in the Masters his opponents need only win two sets against him; still a tough task, but immensely easier than winning three (ask Tommy Haas, Andy Roddick, Juan Martin del Potro, or Tomas Berdych).
Unlike third- or fourth-tier events, the best competition is usually at the Masters tourneys.
That Federer could win this one just eight days prior to the US Open, in the process dominating two of his most troublesome rivals, must make the rest of the top 10 shudder.
If this play continues, the vaunted No. 15 will be just another rung on the ladder.
Now that’s more like it! It wasn’t just that the results were back for scintillating Serb this week, but there were many familiar, positive signs: The patient counterpunching with the backhand, backed up by the sudden, explosive power on the forehand, plus the pugnacious chest-beating after winning tough points.
All of these things indicate that the Djoker is prepped for the Open after a string of disappointments.
The only bad news is that, in the Cincy final, he ran into an opponent with the same strengths, plus that extra bit of flair and touch that Djokovic lacks.
The question for Nole (make that the question everyone else in the top 10 faces) is whether he can maintain this level until Federer’s comes down (whenever that is).
Last week, I commended Murray for winning Montreal and doing “his part (to stay) ahead of the pack for now.” Cincinnati proved a good indication of what I meant by that: Federer no longer appears rusty, beating the Scowling Scot by an awfully similar score to their Open final last year.
This version of the Swiss is clearly not the one Murray vanquished four times in a row over the past year. If that weren’t bad enough, Djokovic appears eager to regain his position in the top three.
In only a week, the tide turned rather dramatically against the Scot. A tide that changes that dramatically can still change back, though.
The Spaniard expressed contentment with his results in Cincinnati, as he progressed a round further than in Montreal.
By that standard, another week of preparation may help him in New York.
Something about his explanation sounded odd, though: If he is not yet accustomed to the pace Djokovic was throwing at him, how did he get by Berdych in the previous round?
Wouldn’t it seem more sensible to say that Nadal isn’t yet physically ready to play on back-to-back-to-back days?
Welcome back to the top 32! Perhaps a seeding for the US Open is attainable after all.
What’s more, a pair of three-set wins over Robin Soderling and Sam Querrey show that those power-blunting counterpunching skills are still sharp.
Sure, he had no answer for Federer in quarters, but then again, who did?
Come to think of it, it’s hard to say what Cincinnati means for Roddick. A first-round exit against Querrey is certainly a disappointment, but Roddick went into last year’s Open with no momentum and still reached the quarters.
While he certainly would like a bit more of a buzz going into the year’s last major, it probably won’t detract from his results in New York.