Just like Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic had made a rather slow start in Cincinnati, winning just one of the opening four matches he played in Ohio, but 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 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 played there for the last time.
Three years after a 7-6 6-3 loss in the final to Roger Novak has made another final and the sixth one 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 who has won all nine Masters 1000 events! With the ATP Finals, all four Majors and Davis Cup crown already in his collection, Novak has cemented his status of one of the greatest players of all time once again, setting the record that will hardly be repeated anytime soon.
To be honest, both players were struggling this week but they 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, and Novak now leads against Roger 24-22.
This is the 31st Masters 1000 crown for Novak and the first since Toronto 2016, certainly, one of the most beloved ones as it delivered Career Golden Masters to him after so many finals lost in Cincinnati, including three versus Roger.
The main elements in Novak's win were his amazing return, the overall performance on serve and domination from the baseline and in the shortest rallies where Federer should have had the advantage. Novak lost just 14 points in 10 service games, with only one loose service game when he allowed Roger to convert the only break point he has earned in the entire match.
On the other hand, he 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 in his games to suffer three breaks from six chances he gave to Novak, unable to impose his shots or to keep the points on his racquet.
Djokovic had 12 winners and 16 unforced errors and that was much better than Federer's 22-39 ratio, spraying too many forehand errors and losing the ground completely in the shortest rallies up to four strokes where Novak had a 49-35 advantage which pretty much gave him the title.