ATP Cincinnati 2015 continued on Saturday, a day of action that featured two semifinal matches. In the first match of the day Novak Djokovic faced Alexandr Dolgopolov while the second match featured Andy Murray against Roger Federer.
Dolgopolov entered the semifinal as a large underdog and, accordingly, he had little to lose. Entering the Cincinnati Masters ranked well outside of the Top 50, no one expected the Ukrainian qualifier to make the semis, let alone advance through them at the expense of the World No. 1.
However Dolgopolov had tennis fans in Cincinnati on the edges of their seats on Saturday. Firstly, he won the first set and then, secondly, he fought back from down a break in the second set to force a tiebreaker. Up 5-4 in that tiebreaker and serving, the match truly was on the underdog’s racket as he looked to secure the biggest victory of his career.
But, as is often the case when an underdog has the World No. 1 player against the ropes, the margin of error was thin. Dolgopolov’s mistake came during the rally in the 5-4 point, one that, if won, would have brought up double-match point.
Receiving a shot from Djokovic, Dolgopolov chose to attempt a funky-spinning drop shot on the side furthest from his opponent. If executed properly, it surely would have went for a winner however the Ukrainian caught the top of the net. After that, the tiebreaker went Djokovic’s way as did the third set ending 4-6, 7-6(5), 6-2.
For his efforts Dolgopolov will rise in the rankings come Monday, probably into the Top 40. However you have to wonder how long his missed drop shot will stay with him. While he’s definitely a better player than what his ranking implies, his talent has been dormant for much of the last few seasons. With a ranking of about 39th expected for Monday, he appears likely to enter the US Open unseeded – a circumstance that makes his placement in the draw interesting to watch out for.
Djokovic is now into the Cincinnati final with a chance to accomplish something that no one else has ever done. With a win on Sunday, the Serb would became the only player to win all nine of the current Masters Series events. Cincinnati, for one reason or another, has eluded him over the years including in 2009 and 2012 when he lost the finals to Federer.
Djokovic will face that familiar opponent once again in this Sunday’s final, the Swiss Maestro having survived the bottom half of the draw. On Saturday Federer eliminated Andy Murray in straight sets 6-4, 7-6(5), a match that featured an intense tiebreaker between the two players.
Murray, who won ATP Montreal last weekend, entered the semis perhaps a bit tired. As such, the loss doesn’t change my opinion of him as the proper 2015 US Open favorite, an opinion that goes against betting odds on the matter. However Federer clearly appears to have the Scot’s number at this point in their respective careers. Federer has now won five straight against the Scot and if the two players should meet in Flushing Meadows, Murray may find himself under a fair amount of pressure to buck that trend.
However the Cincinnati final is the matter close at hand. Djokovic, I’m sure, will enter the final as the favorite as he was the pre-tournament favorite and he has been the odds-on favorite at all points in the Cincinnati draw as it has played out this week. Nonetheless, I’ll keep with my preview of the tournament which held that the event would be won by either Stan Wawrinka or
I don’t think Djokovic is razor sharp at this point in his season. There are few losses that I can point at to back up my opinion however the Serb has near-losses to Dolgopolov and Ernests Gulbis. If players with their abilities are pushing the World No. 1 to the brink of defeat then I think Federer, less lenient with mistakes, will push the Serb a little further.
The Cincinnati final goes tomorrow afternoon with ATP Winston-Salem and US Open quallies to follow next week. After that tennis fans will focus on the 2015 event from Flushing Meadows in New York.