x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Who's the daddy?

Life could not be much better at the moment for Roger Federer, now firmly re-established as the world's best tennis player.

Roger Federer serves against Novak Djokovic on his way to victory in Cincinnati.
Roger Federer serves against Novak Djokovic on his way to victory in Cincinnati.

Life could not be much better at the moment for Roger Federer, now firmly re-established as the world's best tennis player. A summer which began with the fulfilment of a seemingly impossible dream of an elusive French Open title and continued with a record-breaking 15th grand slam triumph at Wimbledon was capped by the timely arrival of twin daughters in the middle of a well-earned holiday period.

Returning to business this month for the North American hard court season, Federer has strolled around the courts of Montreal and Cincinnati with hardly a care in the world. Unconcerned when his return to action two weeks ago ended with a Rogers Cup quarter-final defeat at the hands of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, the Swiss travelled across the United States border to rule the roost in Cincy. A comfortable 6-1, 7-5 victory over world No 4 Novak Djokovic followed a more impressive semi-final success over Andy Murray which sent out the most important message of the build-up to the US Open, which begins a week from now.

Federer, who has already triumphed at Flushing Meadows five times, is looking good for a sixth consecutive New York honour which would confirm his superiority over the steadily improving Murray and over his former nemesis Rafael Nadal. Overcoming Djokovic for the eighth time in 12 meetings took Federer's career haul to 61 titles and within one of Andre Agassi's record of 17 Masters Series successes.

"I think the special part is winning for the first time as a dad," said an elated Federer. "It's a great thing. It gets me going emotionally a little bit, because I know it's been a wonderful summer." Federer, who is seeded to meet Murray in a rematch of last year's US Open final, added: "I really had the feeling today that I could mix it up the way I wanted to. That then gives me a lot of confidence. I was playing great from the beginning to the end."

The Swiss, who experienced a fair amount of muscle pain in Montreal, worked that stiffness out of his system in Cincinnati as he concentrated on regaining an impressive level of service penetration. "It's good to know that when I need a good serve I can hit it," he said. "I have no back problem any more, so that allows me to play freely again and focus on the way I want to play and not the way I have to hit the shot. That's a big difference today than a few months ago.

"I couldn't be more happy right now," he concluded. "I didn't know if I'd be able to play here because of Myla and Charlene [the newly born twins] Thanks to them coming earlier than expected - it was good timing." Djokovic, whose biggest win over Federer was in the 2008 Australian Open final, was left to lament the latest of his near misses during what has become a frustrating year. This was the fourth time the Serb has been second best in a Masters 1000 final and he said: "Unfortunately I was born in the wrong era. But I don't think there is some kind of curse on me."

Djokovic, who had excelled in defeating Nadal in the semi-finals, added: "Overall, it's another final for me, so I've got to be satisfied. "I got a lot of matches in before the US Open which is important. I will try to work in the next seven days before Flushing Meadows on certain things, on a better approach to the match and being aggressive from the start. If I manage to do that, I think I can go far."

wjohnson@thenational.ae