Novak Djokovic beat Roger Federer 6-4 6-4 to win the Cincinnati Masters and become the first man to complete a career sweep of all nine 1000 Series titles.
The Serb, who returned to the higher reaches of the game with victory at Wimbledon earlier this summer after two years in the doldrums, was at his very best on Sunday to end Federer’s hopes of an eighth Cincinnati title in just 1hrs and 23 minutes.
More importantly for a resurgent Djokovic, he claims the Western and Southern Open for the first time after five previous defeats in the Ohio final – but notably, he now becomes the first man to win all nine Masters titles.
Federer, Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray have each won seven while Djokovic had been stuck on eight since winning in Monte Carlo in 2013, and he came into Cincinnati without a title at this level since Canada in 2016.
Djokovic’s Golden Masters
Djokovic had accounted for Marin Cilic, Milos Raonic and Grigor Dimitrov in a lung-busting run to the final and as the 10th seed, he had to play five matches before eventually lifting the trophy, but he saved his best performance of the week for Sunday’s final.
The former world no 1, who will rise to number six in the next updated rankings list, was virtually unbeatable on his own serve while the usually ice-cool Federer crumbled at a couple of crucial junctures – noticeably when he handed his opponent a break back early in the second set, having looked to have finally made a breakthrough.
But much like Paris in 2016 when he became the first man since 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time, Djokovic was not to be denied with history on the line.
Most Career Masters Titles
“It’s a very special moment for me. It’s the first time I get to stand here as the champion – I’ve lost five finals before, most of them to this great man – Roger, thank you for finally letting me win one in Cincinnati,” he told the crowd after lifting the trophy.
“I’d like to thank my family for their support, especially through these hard times – it’s been a bit of a roller coaster with injury, time off and surgery.
“It all seems unreal to be back at this level, winning Wimbledon and now this.”
Djokovic struck at opportune moments, the pivotal breaks coming in the seventh game of each set that gave him 4-3 leads which he would not relinquish.
With his second serve better than ever, and his defensive skills standing up to the key moments in which Federer did threaten, Djokovic only once looked in any trouble.
Having claimed the first set with little fuss, he was broken by Federer after a couple of routine opportunities went awry -but instead of getting riled, he recalibrated and broke back immediately when Federer somehow managed to spurn a couple of glorious opportunities.
Djokovic never looked back and when he broke again, the writing was on the wall. Federer, as ever, was magnanimous in defeat.
It is a remarkable return to the winners circle for Djokovic, who took time off at the end of last season to deal with an elbow injury and returned at the start of the year with a fourth-round exit at the Australian Open.
He did not go beyond the third round of the opening four Masters events of the year but found some form through the clay court season before claiming the Eastbourne title in July after accepting a wildcard.
That was the catalyst for a run to the Queen’s final where he was beaten by Marin Cilic and then a first major in more than two years when he triumphed over Kevin Anderson to win a fourth Wimbledon title.
Now he once again stands in front of his peers. Nadal and Federer remain ahead of him in terms of total Grand Slam titles, but Djokovic has a knack of creating history of his own.
A champion in Indian Wells, Miami, Monte Carlo, Madrid, Rome, Canada, Shanghai and Paris, he was able to finally add the Cincinnati crown to his mantlepiece on Sunday night and with the US Open just a week away, he looks well placed for a third New York crown.