Each of them has 17 Grand Slam singles titles, and at their respective peaks, both of them routinely demolished opponents of the highest quality. One of them is already 33 years old, the other fast closing on that age. One of them is an American, the other a Swiss. One is a woman, the other a man, and both can speak with authority on the subject of stylists and hair-care products. I don’t think I need to write their names.
But write them I will, for Roger Federer and Serena Williams re-asserted their credentials as champions after a tumultuous few weeks—weeks during which Novak Djokovic was MIA, Eugenie Bouchard suffered a first-round humiliation at home in Montreal, Williams herself was beaten by her sister Venus for the first time since 2009, Andy Murray and Maria Sharapova went toes up, and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga vanquished four Top 10 players in Toronto.
But when the dust settled in Cincinnati, there they were once again. The Reliables. Roger and Serena.
In the ATP final, second-seeded Federer took care of No. 6 David Ferrer, 6-3, 1-6, 6-2. Once again, Federer attacked with something like impunity, and he appeared to be in greater command of the approach game than ever before. Could it be that Federer’s last great achievement in tennis will be re-inventing the slashing, chipping-and-charging, serving-and-volleying style of play?
In that regard, it’s about time that the self-effacing Swede Stefan Edberg received his due. Federer has made it clear over the years that he’s not happy to see a coach, whether it be his or anyone else’s, get undue credit for a player’s success. But it sometimes seems like Edberg, a childhood idol of Federer’s and one of the greatest serve-and-volleyers of all time, gets almost no credit at all. He doesn’t do press. Federer downplays Edberg’s role, and that’s just fine with Stefan.
But it appears that since taking on the job as Federer’s co-coach (with Swiss Davis Cup captain Severin Luthi), Edberg has finally convinced Federer that at this stage in his career, he is best served by attacking the net. Paul Annacone preached a similar message, but it didn’t really come to fruition until this year. I don’t know if Edberg did it by hook, crook, or hypnosis, but Federer is a different player this season, and the longer the year goes on more different he looks. This title in Cincinnati broke a four-match losing streak in Masters finals.
The caveats that Rafael Nadal has been out of commission and Djokovic, newly married and fresh off a win over Federer in the Wimbledon final, has just been treading water, are incidental. As Federer said after the match, “I know Rafa wasn’t here and Nole lost early, but you can’t control who you’re facing. Today I served well in the clutch, I was moving well and coming to the net and using my slice very effectively.”