Wow, the commentators jinxed that match, big time. What some at ESPN billed as the biggest non-major final of the year (assuming you count the Olympics as a major) melted a bit in the summer sun. But that doesn’t diminish the champion’s accomplishments: Roger Federer won his 5th Cincinnati Masters title today without losing his serve all tournament, beating Novak Djokovic 6-0, 7-6 in the final. The first set was over in 20 minutes, not so much reminding me of bagels as of pancakes: at least on Nole’s side of the net. Roger, however, played great even as Nole turned up the volume in the second set, the Cincinnati Swiss demonstrating crisp, first-strike tennis throughout. It did get competitive in the end, and both guys should go into the US Open filled with confidence.
It was nice to see the match LIVE on network television this morning, but I have a quibble with commentator Jim Courier’s post-match assessment that this match deserves an “asterisk” because Novak has played so much tennis going into it. What? How about the fact that Roger’s 31-years-old and has played nearly as much in recent weeks, including two huge, mentally exhausting finals at Wimbledon? Do all of Roger’s losses get an asterisk simply because he’s older than the other guys in the “Big Four”? I hope not. No doubt Nole is a tad worn down, but I call “fault!” on over-doing the asterisks on national television. It’s not like Novak struggled before meeting Roger this week; he also entered the final without losing his serve. Everyone loses for a reason and it takes something more than winning a tournament the weekend before to score an “asterisk.” What do you guys think of the asterisk conversation??
Another TV moment of note – Mary Joe Fernandez asked Roger after the match if he could recall ever winning a title before without losing his serve. He smiled and thought about it: “Maybe once in Qatar, years ago.” I laughed – simply because that’s a phrase I’d love to be able to work into casual conversation one day. Now Roger can also say: “Five times, in Cincinnati. . .” Ah, the glamorous life of a pro tennis player.
Li Na vs. Angelique Kerber is next – LIVE on ESPN2. I will update this post later.**
Congrats to Li Na for finally winning a final after her big French Open win in 2011. She’s come so close, so often (having played three finals so far this season, including one this past Monday in Toronto) and was over due for a win. I like that she hired Carlos Rodriguez, especially as its one of the few on-court coaching relationship that yields comprehensible conversation in English. Though we still get to see her harangue her sweet husband in Chinese. Best of both worlds! Yay!
Li Na wrestled this match from Angelique Kerber, winning it 1-6, 6-3, 6-1. I enjoyed the match, as I often do when Kerber is playing. A TV commentator compared her to David Ferrer this week – and though their games aren’t exactly mirror images of each other, I do agree that they have something in common: they force their opponents to play their best. That’s why a Kerber match vs. a fellow top 10 player is usually a good show. She drives the supposedly “better” or more powerful player crazy until they either implode or come up with something great. In Li’s case, she was lucky to have coach Rodriguez there to counsel patience. You can’t hit through Kerber, she being made of rubber and you being more like glue in any given situation. Strategy is key vs. Kerber, which can only improve the quality of a match.
Kerber also has her own power – like Ferrer it’s underestimating her to label her a pure counter puncher. Which again heightens the drama and possibilities against any number of opponents. If you still haven’t watched the match and have limited time, I suggest tuning in for the epic eighth game of the second set, with Kerber serving at 3-4. Li finally won this 24 point game, but Kerber’s last stand proved highly entertaining. A great appetizer for what could be an unpredictable US Open.