Just like Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic had made a rather slow start in Cincinnati, winning one of the opening four matches he played in Ohio. That all changed in 2008 when he reached the final for the first time, losing in two tie breaks to Andy Murray.
It was hard to believe back then that one of the best players on hard courts of all time will struggle so much to claim the Cincinnati crown, but it seemed he wasn't destined to lift the trophy there, losing further four finals in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2015, when he competed there for the last time.
Three years after a 7-6, 6-3 loss in the final to Roger, Novak made another final at his most desired Masters 1000 event. As it turned out, the sixth final was decisive for him, outplaying the seven-time champion Federer 6-4, 6-4 in an hour and 20 minutes to grab the crown and achieve the ultimate tennis record as the first player with all nine Masters 1000 trophies!
With the ATP Finals, all four Majors and Davis Cup crown already in his collection, Novak had cemented his status as one of the greatest players of all time, setting the record that will hardly be repeated anytime soon.
Both players struggled that week but were the deserved finalists, battling with their rivals and the rain to set up the 46th meeting, the first since the Australian Open in 2016. It was the 31st Masters 1000 crown for Novak and the first since Toronto 2016, one of the most beloved ones as it earned a Career Golden Masters to him after so many finals lost in Cincinnati, including three versus Roger.
In 2018, Novak Djokovic claimed the ninth different Masters 1000 trophy.
The main elements in Novak's triumph were his fantastic return, the overall performance on serve and domination from the baseline and the shortest rallies, where Federer should have had the advantage.
Novak lost 14 points in ten service games, getting broken once from the only break chance he offered to Roger. On the other hand, Novak tamed Roger's serve beautifully, returning as many balls as possible to leave the Swiss with no free points and shifting the battlefield to his familiar ground on the baseline.
Federer lost 42% of the points behind the initial shot to suffer three breaks from Novak's six opportunities, unable to impose his strokes or keep the rallies on his racquet. Djokovic had 12 winners and 16 unforced errors, much better than Federer's 22-39 ratio, with the Swiss spraying too many forehand errors and losing ground entirely in the shortest exchanges up to four strokes where Novak had a 49-35 advantage which pretty much gave him the title.