With the right kind of rest and as long as it’s not clay, Roger Federer is the best tennis player in the world, once again. The next addition to his never ending list of titles is the 2012 Cincinnati Masters, beating Novak Djokovic 6-0, 7-6 in the final, winning his sixth title of the year.
Not just his sixth – It’s three Masters titles, taking his toll up to 21, now tied for most on the all-time list along with Rafael Nadal, adding his fifth win at Cincinnati to his triumphs at Indian Wells and Madrid earlier this year and one major above the rest – His 7th Wimbledon title, his 17th Grand Slam title and further cementing his hold on the top spot in the ATP rankings, widening the gulf between him and Novak Djokovic at number 2.
In all their matches in the past (now 28, 16-12), none of them have ever 6-0’d each other. Twenty minutes into the final on Sunday, Federer was already one set away from victory. He wasn’t kidding when he said that the silver medal in London didn’t disappoint him by much. He took the Canadian Masters off, letting Novak Djokovic gather speed and momentum before he crushed him in the warm up to the US Open.
Federer, rested, is back to his dominant ways on the fast courts. He didn’t drop a set in Cincinnati but even more impressive, in his five wins over Bogomolov, Tomic, Fish and Wawrinka (all players outside the top 19 in the world), Federer’s serve wasn’t broken once. With his serve back where it used to be and with an improved approach to the net game (winning 12 of 15 net points against Djokovic, who was 0-5 in those situations), it seems like the impossible, of Federer actually improving and adding to his game entering the 32nd year of his life, a dinosaur in tennis terms, is actually happening.
It’s simply a better approach to the game, physically and mentally. Federer knows he’s no longer the fittest man on tour, so he takes it easy when he doesn’t have to, relying on serve to keep him in matches when his legs can’t. He’s still one of the quickest to react, but not as he used to be.
Knowing when not to over-strain your body and giving it enough rest has been crucial to his success this season. Keeping a clam mind and simply approaching matches a bit differently than he has in the past have made him that much harder to beat, going six of eight in finals this year, losing only in the Olympics, feeling exhausted after not getting the rest he needed from Wimbledon, and the Halle final to Tommy Haas, which wasn’t as important in hindsight.
When does it stop? When either Djokovic returns to himself or Andy Murray finds whatever it is that pulled him to the 3-0 victory over Federer in London. There’s no Nadal, always the biggest threat, in sight, and that means Roger Federer is the favorite to win his first US Open title since 2008, and become the first player in history to win at Queens six times.