Novak Djokovic will make his fourth attempt at capturing the Cincinnati Masters title, one of three Masters’ series titles which have eluded him so far, after defeating Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 6-2 to reach the Western & Southern Open final today.
The last time these two played, Djokovic slipped and stumbled to a straight sets defeat on the Wimbledon lawn as del Potro played dazzling power tennis to deny the Serb the Olympic bronze medal. Today, back on his preferred hard courts, Djokovic had his feet firmly under him, raising his defense from merely very good to phenomenal and del Potro could not summon the accuracy or aggressiveness to penetrate it. The match started promisingly and with Djokovic serving at 1-1 and yet to get his serve clicking, del Potro had four chances to take an early break. He saw a second serve from Djokovic on each of the four but despite playing with some aggression to get to those break points, he approached them with curious tentativeness, retreating deep behind the baseline, failing to capitalize on good, if not winning, second serve returns and short balls and overall, letting himself be drawn into the kind of marathon rallies Djokovic excels at.
He paid dearly for such passivity as Djokovic held and started to serve and play better. Del Potro held from 0-40 at 1-2 but couldn’t repeat the feat at 2-3, pegged back to 30-30 after a double fault, then giving up a break point on a rally which illustrated a major problem for him in this match-up – hampered by an injury to his left wrist, del Potro was even less inclined than usual to dictate with his backhand, something Djokovic does superbly, and by running around his forehand he repeatedly left the court open for Djokovic. Another double fault gave up the break for Djokovic to lead 4-2 and the match quickly assumed an air of inevitability.
Del Potro took some pain killers late in the first set and made a good start to the second, holding to love and playing with all the aggression that was lacking in the first set. Unfortunately, he didn’t have the accuracy today to match his attacking intent and Djokovic repeatedly stepped smoothly inside the baseline, allowing him to redirect the ball for short angles and pressure errors from del Potro, who was broken to 30 at 1-1.
Del Potro’s last chance came with Djokovic serving at 3-2 when he found an inside-in forehand winner for two break points, but he couldn’t get through Djokovic’s defenwe on the first and the second was saved with a service winner. Del Potro was broken to love shortly afterwards and although an unlucky net cord saw Djokovic’s first match point go by, another errant forehand by del Potro gave up a second and Djokovic struck an ace for an ultimately easy and convincing victory. Del Potro must consider whether or not to play the U.S. Open despite his injured left wrist and Djokovic will attempt to complete the Canada-Cincinnati double with only one Swiss man standing in the way.