MASON: No medal involved this time. Little drama, either. Novak Djokovic simply ground his way to another tournament title match. And Roger Federer will be waiting for him.
Djokovic reached the finals of the Western & Southern Open for the second straight year on Saturday, beating Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 6-2 in a reprise of their Olympics match. Del Potro defeated Djokovic for the bronze medal on Wimbledon’s lush grass two weeks ago. The final will match the world’s top two players, the first time that’s happened in Cincinnati. If Federer wins, it’ll give him a record five titles in the tournament.
Top-ranked Federer beat Swiss countryman Stanislas Wawrinka 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the other semi-final. It’ll be the seventh time that Federer and Djokovic have played for a title, the last time in 2011 at Dubai. Federer beat Djokovic for the Cincinnati title in 2009.
Federer leads their career series 15-12, but it’s taken a few interesting turns lately. Djokovic beat him in the semi-finals at the US Open last year, then again in the semis at Rome and the French Open. Federer got the upper hand again in the semi-finals at Wimbledon.
Djokovic reached the Cincinnati finals last year but had to quit in the second set because of a sore shoulder, giving the title to Andy Murray. He won the Rogers Cup in Toronto last Sunday, leaving him a little tired, but he managed to get some rest at the suburban Cincinnati tournament.
Djokovic and del Potro exchanged a lot of shots from the baseline in the first set, with both players wasting chances to take control early. Djokovic got to the semi-final by holding serve in all 22 games during the tournament, facing only four break points. He faced that many in the third game of the match. The Serb saved one of those break points with a 30-shot rally that ended with del Potro dumping a backhand into the net, then dropping his head.
One of del Potro’s biggest concerns is his left wrist, which has nagged him for some time. The right-hander will have it checked before the US Open by the same doctor who operated on his right wrist in 2010, when he missed most of the season while recovering. During the first set, del Potro looked at his left wrist and shook it after a tough backhand shot, an indication those long rallies were stinging. Djokovic broke him to go up 4-2 and served it out. He broke him again for a 2-1 lead in the second set, when del Potro seemed to lose his edge.
Venus Williams played through a bad back that forced her to get treatment and reduced her serve to 101kph before finally fading in the third set as China’s Li Na reached the women’s final with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 victory. Li is trying for her first title this season. She lost in finals at Sydney, Rome and Montreal, where Petra Kvitova beat her a week ago.
Kvitova couldn’t turn it into a rematch. She got sloppy in the final set and lost to Angelique Kerber 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 in the other semi-finals. Kerber ended Serena Williams’ 19-match winning streak on Friday, keeping her in contention for her third title of the season.