Tennis Server ATP/WTA Pro Tennis Showcase - W&SFG Men's Masters Final Cincinnati 2010 - Federer Casts Out Fish To Reel In Cincy Title - Roger Federer, Mardy Fish
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August 22, 2010

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W&SFG Men's Masters Final 2010, Cincinnati (Mason), Ohio, USA
August 22, 2010
Editorial by Vince Barr with photography by Pablo Sanfrancisco.

Vince Barr Photo
Vince Barr

Federer Casts Out Fish To Reel In Cincy Title
The championship match of the 2010 Western & Southern Financial Group Masters's tournament did not go exactly according to script. While Federer won today's match with Mardy Fish, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (1), 6-4, he was not as dominant as he usually is in title matches. In other words, this one could have gone either way and nearly did. Mardy defended all four break points against his first serve in the first set and was not broken until the third set. Roger only faced one break point all day and that came in the second set, but he beat back the challenge and won the game in which it occurred. Fish did not back down at all today, and it was great to see one of Roger's opponents maintain the self confidence necessary to have a chance to beat the Swiss maestro. The consensus from his fellow professionals is that Roger's game has not gone down a level but that most of the guys have managed to close the gap to some extent. This fact gives them a little more confidence when facing off against him and that can make the difference of a few points here and there which is often sufficient to swing a match one way or another. And that was the case today. Had Mardy not lost 30 pounds in the last year, it is difficult to envision that this one would have been as close as it turned out to be.
Roger had a plus / minus of +9 with 46 total winners against 37 unforced errors, most of which came on his backhand (17). He converted one of five break points against Fish and credited Mardy's having an excellent serve as the reason he was not more successful in that particular category. Roger also came to the net slightly more than did Mardy in an effort to put more pressure on Fish's game. He won 64% of his net points (23 of 36) but tended to play from the baseline as he usually does in match play. Roger won 53% of his baseline points (55 of 104). Mardy served extremely well and had 17 aces as compared with Roger's 11. Fish had several service winners as well and his percentage of unreturnable serves (40% on 50 of 125 points) was slightly better than Roger's, which was at 37% (40 of 109 points). Mardy's percentage of first serve points won fell off markedly from his usual 90% range and he managed to win only 72% (52 of 72) today while Roger was slightly better with 77% (55 of 71) of his first serve points won. Mardy tended to win the longer rallies with the longest one being 19 shots whereas the longest rally that Federer won was only 12 shots.
I asked Mardy how critical holding that second service game of the match was when the score was 1-1 in the first set and that particular game went about 11 1/2 minutes. "It was a big starting point of the match, trying to feel each other out a bit. We hadn't played in a little while; two and a half years or so," Fish said. "If I had lost that game there, he quite possibly could have steamrolled me and gotten some extra confidence. When he gets a lead, he's nearly unbeatable. Holding that game for me was huge to keep myself in it. Clearly the first set was huge. I would have liked to have played a little bit better tiebreaker. Maybe put a little bit more pressure on him. But I can't complain too much," Fish said. From his post-match remarks, it doesn't sound like Mardy will take too long to appreciate all that he has accomplished this summer, especially raising his ranking some 50 spots since Newport. In fact, even despite his loss today, he should be in the Top 25 in next week's rankings, which will automatically give him one of the 32 seeds in the upcoming U.S. Open.
"I feel great and I've done some things this summer that I've never done before," Fish noted. "I'll be able to put this match in perspective very shortly. You know, it's a great tournament. It's as well as I've played. I played well today; he played well today. It was a pretty high level, I thought, for the most part. So, you know, one break against Roger in two matches (including that 2008 match at Indian Wells that Fish won). He's only broken me one time in five sets, so I've played really well against him the past couple times," Fish thought. So, aside from the one break against his serve, what was the difference in the match today? "Well, it was just a few points. You know, in that game I had a breakpoint in the third set; I had maybe two forehands on my racquet. It was 3-2 me or something like that. That's one point that goes the other way, and you're in a really good spot there to win," Fish continued. "That being said, there was probably a ton of those. You know, some deuce points, he served. He served so well at the 30-all points. Had a lot of 30-Alls. He went most of 'em down the T and made almost everyone of them. I didn't have many looks on the second serve. He really took care of his second serve really well," Fish opined.
I asked Mardy if he was trying to extend some of his rallies with Roger since he seemed to do much better on the longer points, once he got a chance to assert himself. "He plays on his terms. You know, he works his forehand around the court, goes after the ball, and keeps you on your heels," Fish observed. "I would have liked to have played a little more aggressively on his serve games, especially on some of his second serves. He must have served 65% at least (Federer had a first serve percentage of 63%)," Fish noted. I asked Mardy if he thought that Roger was being a touch too aggressive on Fish's serves as it seemed as though Roger was making a lot more errors than he usually did in his return game. "Yeah, I'd like to think that I had something to do with that," Mardy laughed. "I tried to mix up a ton of speeds on my second serve with him. He can get you in a rhythm where he's chipping that backhand short, and it's an awkward and uncomfortable ball to hit. I tried to mix up spots and speeds. You could tell he was uncomfortable with it," Fish said.
I asked Roger about whether or not losing the first set in such a tight tiebreaker caused him to increase his level of intensity in the match. "No, I mean I thought I played well the whole match through," Federer said. "I don't think I played better in the second or third set. I thought the first set was the one I really should have won and ended up losing, so I think it was a close match. It could have gone either way. I had a tough moment staring at one set down and break point in the second set. You know, you think you're playing a good match, but you might lose 6 and 4. This is how tennis used to be played, coming up, big serves, some volleys. So it was played on a couple of points here and there. I hung tough and made him work hard and was able to come across the finish line faster than he did," Federer explained.
I asked Roger if he had a little difficulty in seeing the ball on Mardy's serves since he was not his usual highly efficient self in that part of his game. "He's got a great serve. He keeps you guessing," Roger noted. "His first serve is particularly hard to read and get any proper play on it. I saw the stats against Roddick, and he had 95% first serve winning percentage, not only here, but in Atlanta. That shows you the guy can hit absolute bullets on the serve, and very accurate, too. Every time he misses, he either hits the tape or he misses it by this much (putting his fingers less than an inch apart)," Roger continued. "He's not a guy that's just gonna have completely off day on his serve. He also mixes up his second serve well with kick and faster space and sliders (out wide). That just kind of keeps you guessing the whole time. You think, Okay, I'll play safe, and obviously that's the wrong option. Then you think, Okay, I'll go for it, and that's the wrong play, too. So, his serve is just a compliment to him as a great player," Roger explained.
Someone asked Roger how much a part of his game the drop shot has become as he tried it on several occasions today with mixed results. Some of them went wide and others found their way into the net. But overall, it was pretty effective against Mardy since Fish was playing so deep behind the baseline on most of the points. "Well, on the hard courts, it's obviously not the best shot. You can use it on the clay, maybe on slower hard courts. But these courts play too fast and the ball bounces too high," Roger explained. "I thought I played a good one in the last game. I think I served for it and he got to it rather easily. So that kind of shows you that you really have to choose it at the right time. And when I chose to play it, I could also hit a proper forehand. I typically will use it just to mix it up sometimes; I think it's a nice shot when used properly. In the past, I used to think that it was a panic shot because I didn't know what else to do. Today I used it the right way. I'm just happy it's part of my arsenal now," Federer noted.
Paul Daugherty of the Cincinnati Enquirer asked Roger whether or not it was more difficult to become an elite player or to stay there. Roger thought about it for a moment, then replied, "Well, I guess getting there is harder, because not many guys get there," Roger smiled. "Once you're there you feel like you belong there and you get better seedings, better draws. If you take advantage of those, you can hang around there for a couple of years. Then again, it's windy at the top, you know. For me, it was easier to stay at the top than getting there, even though I was able to get to the top 5 in the world in 2002, 2003 when I was only 21 years old. But I had a lot of pressure just coming along, people saying I was gonna be the next No. 1, the next future Grand Slam champ. It's not so simple and easy like people think it is. You see how hard it is today to win slams and tournaments. There are many good players around and many dangerous floaters if the draws. It's hard to win them all," Roger explained.
I asked Roger for his reaction to the common assumption from his peers that many of them have decreased the gap between their play and his. What did he need to do to win a lot more slams and become as dominant as he once was? "Look, there's only four (slams) a year. That kind of gives you the answer. You can't win ten. You got to be smart with your scheduling. For me, it's about being healthy and keeping it fun and doing the right things out on the tennis court. I'll always have new challenges coming up. I used to play against Sampras, Agassi, Moya, Todd Martin and all those guys. The next generation was my generation and that meant playing against Roddick, Hewitt, Safin and Ferrero to name just a few guys," Federer continued. "So I've played through many generations now and there have always been different challenges and rivals. That won't change. I think every five years you'll have someone new. The next generation is probably already sort of knocking on the door. It surprises me to see that there are no teenagers in the top 100, because Becker won Wimbledon at 17 and Hewitt won Adelaide at 16. I was 30 in the world almost when I was 19. At the moment, I just think people are so strong and physically and mentally tough that it's maybe hard to break through. I think the next few years we'll see again some new faces and names," Federer said.
Does Federer have to work harder to stay near the top now perhaps more than he did a few years ago? "Not necessarily. I've been working hard for many years now. I've been with the same conditioning coach for the last 10 years almost. We've been doing great work together," Roger observed. "He's also working with Wawrinka and he used to work with Rosset and the Maleeva sisters. So we've always looked for new ways to keep it interesting. The workouts, even though they're not the most fun sometimes. But you got to go through them. Now today I know why I'm doing it; whereas as a teenager I never knew. I didn't know why a biceps exercise was good for my tennis, because I didn't get a five miles faster serve after that. Today I know exactly what I need to do and have to do, and I have much more fun working out than ever before. It's kind of strange actually," Federer mused.
The Bryan Brothers won the doubles title here over the duo of Max Miryni and Leander Paes, 6-3, 6-4. I got the chance to sit down with them, virtually one-on-one and ask them several questions. I wish I had been able to see more of their match, but I didn't have time to do that and still write my article for this column. That's not to complain whatsoever; I just wish that I had more time to see more of the doubles competition than I was actually able to do. In any event, I asked them how it felt to finally break the Woodies record of 61 singles titles. Bob Bryan observed that "We really haven't had time to let it sink in. The tour keeps going and going and you never have a chance to let it all sink in. I mean, you never want to be satisfied with what you've accomplished. You always want to keep your focus on how you can get better. This will be a record that we'll look at when we've reached the end of our career. We're focused on having a big summer but it felt great (to set the record); people have been talking about it for several years."
Do they have a built-in advantage against whatever doubles team that they play against because they have played with each other for such a long period of time? In a word, yes. "We've played thousands of matches together; most teams play together for a few months; we've got so much experience and we've been playing with each other since we were six years old," Mike Bryan explained. "So we know how each other is going to react in certain situations. I know how Bob handles pressure and I know how he's going to react in certain situations. We've been through the ups and downs throughout our career and it makes us stronger. We're 32 now and have played on the tour for 12 years now. So the experience of how we move together and cover the holes really helps us out; plus we do a lot of talking out there and our communication is very strong," Mike concluded.
So, how much longer do they want to play the game? "We're having a blast doing it right now; we don't want to leave anything on the table," Bob Bryan said. "We want to know that we've spent our bodies, souls and minds for the game we love by the time we're done. You know, we look at Knowles and Nestor and they're still winning titles and are at the top of their game, closing in on 40. Also, I think that with the shortened format, it's going to lengthen every doubles player's career by a few years. As long as we're in contention for slams, we're going to be out there," Bob thought.
One writer asked if they were now able to play much more relaxed by having set the record as compared with their run-up to breaking it in Los Angeles. ""I think so; it's taken a weight off our shoulders," Bob Bryan explained. "We were thinking about it a little bit and it was playing on our minds. We wanted to do it at Wimbledon (break the record), but now that we have the record, the pressure is released. It has shown in our play the last few weeks (that we're much more relaxed). We've kind of got nothing to lose, now. Our place in history is kind of set and now we're just putting icing on the cake, I guess," Bob Bryan opined.
What did Mark Woodforde say to them in LA before they broke his record? "He said "don't make me go to Washington, D.C." to watch you break the record," Bob Bryan laughed. "He said that you'll be able to play with more freedom and less pressure after breaking the record, and he was right. When the Woodies were playing in the 90s, doubles were huge. You had the Jensen's and other marquee teams that carried the game," Bob Bryan continued. "So we're kind of glad to have our place and do our part to help grow the game. The Woodies have been very supportive of us. They've always said nice things to us in the locker room. And they kind of pushed us along to that record, which was great. I don't know if we'll do the same (he said while laughing). We might try to injure some guys as they are getting close to our record," Bob Bryan said while laughing.
This event just continues to grow. Next year, they will expand the grounds by 40% with four new practice courts and two new stadia for the combined men's and women's events next year. One stadium will seat 4,000 people while the other will seat 2,500. The 4,000-seater is envisioned to be a third television venue. It going to be the equivalent of a U.S. Open West with the biggest differences being in the number of players participating. While it will remain a 56-player draw and they will still play best two of three sets, the facilities themselves will be unlike any other professional tennis tournament in the Midwest, certainly outside the Slams. I can't wait for next year already. The men's event will begin on Sunday, August 14th with qualifying being played the previous two or three days. The qualifying dates are yet to be determined since both men and women outside the rankings cut off who don't get a wild card will need to play in those fields. Tickets can be purchased by calling (513) 651-0303.

[3] Roger Federer (SUI) {pink shirt} d [WC] Mardy Fish (USA) 67(5) 76(1) 64
Mardy Fish W&SFG Masters Cincinnati Tennis
Roger Federer W&SFG Masters Cincinnati Tennis
Mardy Fish W&SFG Masters Cincinnati Tennis
Roger Federer W&SFG Masters Cincinnati Tennis
Mardy Fish W&SFG Masters Cincinnati Tennis
Roger Federer W&SFG Masters Cincinnati Tennis
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Roger Federer W&SFG Masters Cincinnati Tennis
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Mardy Fish W&SFG Masters Cincinnati Tennis
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Earlier Coverage from this Event:
August 21, 2010 W&SFG Men's Masters: Fish Swims Past Roddick, Roger Rolls Over Baghdatis - Marcos Baghdatis, Roger Federer, Andy Roddick, Mardy Fish
August 20, 2010 W&SFG Men's Masters: Nadal bounces out, Federer & Roddick On Collision Course - Rafael Nadal, Marcos Baghdatis, Roger Federer, Nikolay Davydenko, Andy Roddick, Novak Djokovic, Mardy Fish, Andy Murray
August 19, 2010 W&SFG Men's Masters: Federer Walks, Roddick Talks, Murray Balks - Rafael Nadal, Julien Bennetteau, Robin Soderling, Andy Roddick, Marcos Baghdatis, Tomas Berdych, Nikolay Davydenko, David Ferrer
August 18, 2010 W&SFG Men's Masters: Roddick Rallies, Nadal makes a Dent
August 17, 2010 W&SFG Men's Masters: Fish Fry & Roger's Reaction To His Critics
August 16, 2010 W&SFG Men's Masters: Americans Take Center Court By Storm

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