Rusedski reflects on Cincinnati results
The Cincinnati Masters Series was the last big event before the US Open begins. It is closer to conditions in New York than those in Toronto, but slightly hotter than New York. The ball traveled even faster through the air because of the climate.
Andy Roddick was back in action after having complained about being lethargic in Washington. Having withdrawn from the Toronto tournament, Roddick was out of the Top 10. However, if he got to the semi-finals or better he would make his way back in the top 10. It is the first time since the rankings have started that an American has not been in the Top 10. There were quite a few interesting stories this week: Could Roger Federer defend his title? Would Nadal’s form improve from Toronto? Could Murray keep the aggressive play up and continue the role? Would there be any big shocks?
The first big match of the week was Roddick vs world No. 5 Robin Soderling – it was a great match and Roddick was back to his best – winning 7-6 in the third. He has worked hard over his career, but since getting together with Larry Stefanki, he’s really improved his game. Roddick has added a slice backhand for variety and started mixing serves and volleys and is now willing to come forward more. He has also gone back to the fighting weight he was when he was world No. 1. If you don’t keep improving, you only go one way in men’s tennis and that is backwards. At the start of the week Roddick was 25-1 to win the US Open, but after beating Soderling in the third round and then going on to easily defeat Novak Djokovic, his odds will be going down dramatically.
Federer on the other hand has had a relatively easy week. He had a bye in the opening round, followed by a retirement in the first set and then a walk over in the third round to play Nikolay Davydenko in the quarter finals. This was his first test of the week and he passed with flying colors. He won in straight sets and was starting to look like the old Roger Federer. It set up a semi final match with Marcos Baghdatis. Baghdatis caused the biggest upset of the week, beating world No. 1 Rafael Nadal in the quarters.
Nadal has struggled all week and at the moment does not look like a threat to win the US Open. We can never count him out but I think it will be another semi-final this year for Rafa at the US Open, depending on his draw. He is struggling with the speed of the courts. Baghdatis though is starting to have a revival and has had a good hard court summer getting to the finals of Washington and now the semis of Cincinnati. He will be a dangerous player and no one will want to play him at the US Open.
Murray’s week was a little disappointing after Toronto. He had a tough draw with Gulbis and Fish in his section. On top of that, he was bound to be a bit tired from the previous week. He ended up losing to Fish in the quarters 7-6 in the third. It wasn’t the fact that he lost which was disappointing; it was the way he played all week. He went back to playing tentative and counter-punching rather than being aggressive like he was in Toronto against Nalbandian and Nadal where he played his best tennis. Against attacking players and hot conditions, if you give them time to dictate and dominate, you will make life more difficult for yourself and you will most likely end up second best.
The match against Fish, to me is a match up that Andy should have won. He has now lost to Fish three times in a row. He played too passively and let him get into a good rhythm. He never used the slice to Mardy’s forehand nor did he serve and volley and take it to him aggressively on the forehand side. If he did, he wouldn’t have lost the last three times. We must though give credit to Mardy Fish who has had a great week and a brilliant summer having won in Newport and Atlanta. He received a wild card this week to gain entry into the tournament and has taken advantage. He set up a semi-final with his best friend and fellow American, Andy Roddick. It is always tough to play a friend; Roddick served for the match against Fish and lost 6-1 in the third. A big opportunity missed, but this shows he just hasn’t played enough tennis this summer – to lose a match from 6-4, 5-2 up. Fish is having his best ever summer before the US Open and is finally starting to fulfill his potential.
Federer came through against Baghdatis and wasn’t pushed this week; his preparation for the US Open is going perfectly. The final was a tense match against Fish, with Federer winning 6-4 in the third set. Federer didn’t play his best tennis but he won, which will only give him more confidence going into the US Open. He has now tied Bjorn Borg with 63 career titles and can surpass him by winning the US Open. If he wins the US Open, he will tie with Pete Sampras at 64 titles. Sampras’ last ever title was the US Open.
Federer is now the odds on favorite to win the US Open, with Murray at the moment being second favorite. This week, all the top players will be in New York practicing on the courts at Flushing Meadows to get ready for the last major of the year. Exciting times ahead…
Really great news that British junior player Oli Golding ended up winning a gold medal in the doubles in the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. I will be in New York watching James Ward play the qualifying round and hopefully he can get through.