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Weekly Debrief: McEnroe vs Roddick. Yes You Read That Right!

This week has been exciting for the tennis world with announcements from players, a few Spanish winners sprinkled in between, and a match between Andy Roddick and John McEnroe. Yes, you read that right. Roddick vs. McEnroe. Let’s check out this week’s Top Moments in the Weekly Debrief.

Top Six

1. Thought we were done with the clay court season after Roland Garros? Think again. Two ATP tournaments were in full swing this week. First up, the SkiStar Swedish Open in Bastad saw its winner Nicolas Almagro triumph over defending champ and country hero Robin Soderling in a contested three-set battle. Almagro has proven he is an immense clay court player as he beat Soderling in Madrid in May of this year as well. But don’t expect him to be a big threat at the upcoming US hard court season as his biggest wins have been mostly on clay.

This photo of Almagro hoisting up the winner’s trophy as Soderling watches on is priceless.

2. Over in Stuttgart, Germany, the MercedesCup saw a less-than-stellar final as Gael Monfils was forced to retire against Albert Montanes with an ankle injury he sustained in the first set. Montanes’ name may sound familiar if you happened to catch him sending Federer crashing out of the Estoril Open earlier this spring in Portugal. Montanes not only won his fifth career title and a nice fat check for close to $94,000, but also a new Mercedes convertible, pictured below.

3. Across the Atlantic Ocean, World Team Tennis (WTT) was taking place all over the United States this past week. WTT is a professional coed tennis league that takes place during the summer months and typically lasts three weeks. Although some may argue that WTT doesn’t offer the high-caliber tennis we see at regular season tournaments, it’s nevertheless, a way of attracting fans on a more local-level. It offers intimate settings with tennis stars of old and new showcasing their skills as well as their personalities.

In the most interesting match-up to date, 51-year-old legend John McEnroe playing for the New York Sportime took on 27-year-old Andy Roddick playing for the Philadelphia Freedoms. The event took place just outside of New York City on Randall’s Island, the future site of the John McEnroe Tennis Academy. Roddick himself even asked McEnroe if he could get a scholarship to train there.

Joking aside, Roddick and McEnroe took to the court and played a competitive set that saw Roddick come out on top winning 5-4 (5-4 in a sudden death 9-point tiebreaker). Once a point was in play, Roddick had sufficient problems putting McEnroe away, and McEnroe further exposed Roddick’s inability to pass him with his flat backhand. And while true that this is no five-set encounter, McEnroe’s quickness, precise volleys and pressure he is able to put on an opponent half his age even in today’s game is nothing short of brilliant. To follow WTT news and see if a match is being played in your city, check out: http://www.wtt.com/

McEnroe (white) and Roddick (black) played a WTT match on Randall’s Island, New York.

4. How would you like to go home $1.7 million wealthier? That’s the minimum worth of this year’s US Open winner’s check. That is an increase of nearly 7% from a year ago. With an additional $1 million possible bonus from winning the Olympus US Open Series, singles champions can walk away with a cool $2.7 million. In what amounts to be the biggest payout in tennis history, the tournament also saw an increase of its total purse to top $22.6 million. It’s good to a tennis player!

5. Swiss #2 and former top-10 player Stanislas Wawrinka formed a new coaching partnership with Peter Lundgren this week. Lundgren, himself reaching a ranking of 25 in singles in 1985, also has an extensive coaching resume including Marcelo Rios, Marat Safin, Marcos Baghdatis, and Grigor Dimitrov. Most impressively, he coached Roger Federer to win his first major title at Wimbledon in 2003. Lundgren had this to say on his new pairing with Wawrinka: “When I asked what he wanted help with, he said he wants to return to the top 10. It’s what you want to hear as a coach … I’m going to try to get Stan to become more aggressive.” The two will begin working together at the upcoming Gstaad event next week.

6. And in the most cheerful news of the week, Juan Martin del Potro may be expected to recover from his wrist surgery quicker than anticipated. Del Potro took the US Open by storm last September when he came back from almost two-sets down against Roger Federer to win the title in a tremendous battle. He has been securely planted in the top 10 even while playing only five tournaments since his breakthrough performance in New York last year. The star announced on his new twitter account that a post-surgery medical examination by his doctor at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota showed positive strides: “The doctor is happy with the progress. Now we have to keep strengthening [the wrist] and then be ready for the racquet.”

Del Potro originally stated months ago that he would not be back until at least November, but he is now hopeful that he may be ready in time for Argentina’s Davis Cup semifinal against France in the week after the US Open. There is also speculation that he may even be ready to defend his title in Flushing Meadows: “Davis Cup is a good date for returning to the tour, I hope I can come back sooner,” del Potro stated last week.

That’s it for this week’s Debrief. Just stop by anytime you want a recap of the ATP tour. We’ve got you covered!

Around the Corner: Clay Court Tennis in Stuttgart and Bastad

With the short grass court season already over, the ATP Tour turns to a couple of clay court tournaments in Europe this week.

Stuttgart:

The chance at redemption to a multitude of players who have missed significant portions of the tennis season due to injury is offered at Stuttgart this year.

Russian Nikolay Davydenko is the top seed in Stuttgart and will try to improve on his semi-final appearances here in 2004 and 2005. Ranked sixth in the world, Davydenko is still struggling with his game since returning from a wrist injury in June. After missing three months he returned in time for Halle and Wimbledon and lost both times in the second round on his least favorite surface of grass. Davydenko gets a first round bye and will then play the winner of the Daniel Gimeno-Traver and Jeremy Chardy match. Chardy won his first career title here a year ago but will be hard-pressed to repeat.

Frenchman Gael Monfils is seeded third and has a fairly easy looking quarter of the draw that is littered with qualifiers. Monfils also missed some time earlier in the year with injury issues and has yet to post any significant results in 2010. This tournament offers the perfect opportunity for Monfils to reach his first final of the season.

Fellow Frenchman Gilles Simon could meet up with veteran Juan Carlos Ferrero in the third quarter-final. Simon will be have trouble living up to this seventh-seed status as he too was out of action for three months between March and June with injuries and is not yet where his game is capable of being.

In the final quarter, clay-court specialist Albert Montanes the fifth seed will likely meet up with second seeded Jurgen Melzer if they can get through the opening two rounds. Melzer is experiencing the season of his career thus far at the age of 29 by making it to the semi-finals at the French Open and the fourth round at Wimbledon. The Austrian had never before advanced past the third round of a Grand Slam.

Bastad:

In Bastad, Sweden, local hope Robin Soderling will look to defend his title from a year ago. Soderling was the first Swede to win the singles title in Bastad since his current coach, Magnus Norman, did it in 2000.

Third seeded David Ferrer won the title in 2007 and is still capable of strong results on clay. This year he has won the title in Acapulco, made the finals of Buenos Aires and the Masters-Series tournament in Rome as well as the semi-finals of four other tournaments.

Nicolas Almagro is seeded fourth and is an able clay-court player. His section seems quite routine and he should be able to find his way deep into the draw.

The bottom quarter features two tough players from Spain in veteran Tommy Robredo, who has won the Bastad title twice before (2006, 2008), and second seeded Fernando Verdasco. Robredo holds a 23-7 career record at this tournament and has a 4-4 head-to-head against Verdasco.

One interesting note when looking at the list of former doubles champions is that Sweden’s Jonas Bjorkman won here on seven separate occasions and with six different partners.

FRENCH HOPES IN MONTE CARLO

The 2010 Masters Circuit has landed on European soil with the Monte-Carlo Rolex Masters this week.

After Americans had home-grown superstar Andy Roddick to cheer on in both the finals of Indian Wells and Miami, the French will be hoping that one of their many young prodigies across the tennis circuit rises to the challenge on the sumptuous clay courts of one of Europe’s largest tax havens. Yes, technically there can’t be any home-grown winners as no current players cite the city-state of Monaco as their place of birth, but you know what I mean.

As usual with organizers handing wildcards to national treasures they have plenty to choose from throughout the draw.

Most knowing eyes glance immediately to the name of Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. ‘The Black Barracuda,’ No. 10 in the world and sixth seed here in Monte Carlo, would be most fan’s prediction as the nation’s biggest hope.

With no Gael Monfils, Julien Benneteau will be receiving an increased share of support from the home crowd. The world No. 36 is still chasing his first career title and at the age of 28 is quickly approaching that dreaded brow of the hill known as the “big 3-0.” Having reached a career high ranking of No. 33 last October he will be hoping to push on and improve further in 2010.

Of the four finals he has lost during his career, two were on French soil in Lyon in 2008 and Marseille back in February where he went down 3-6, 4-6 to compatriot Michael Llodra. He also has four doubles titles on French soil and lost the doubles final here in 2007 when he and Richard Gasquet fell short of the dominating Bryan brothers.

Another bright French spark, Jeremy Chardy, has already crashed out in round one going down to Andrey Golubev of Kazakhstan yesterday 2-6, 6-7(2).

With such big players in the draw the task lying ahead for the home talent is huge. But every big name missing from the draw is a blessing and they will all be happy not to see the shadow of Roger Federer crawling through the rounds towards them.

Whether they can live up to expectation is another matter and if they are like us Brits across the channel the French will be braced for disappointment. However, with so many more highly ranked players than our sole hope Andy Murray they have a much better chance of success.

The French have their own hoodoo to break too you know. Marcel Bernard was the last Frenchman to win Roland Garros in 1946, before the Open Era had even begun. It may not be quite as big as the ghost of Fred Perry but there’s not too much in it. They haven’t had a French finalist since Henri Lecont lost to the Swede Mats Wilander in 1988 either.

Will a local star use this tournament to push on towards ending that spectre and help appease the hurt of one of the world’s proudest nations? Sit back and find out as one of the world’s grandest tennis settings plays host to its own masters event of 2010.

JELLY ROLLS – JANKOVIC RETURNS TO TOP FORM AT INDIAN WELLS

By Chris Oddo

It was a wild week in the California Desert – conditions were so balmy that I felt like imitating that BNP Paribas commercial where the fans grab the player’s racquets and make a mockery of the match by running onto the court and taking wild amateurish swings at the ball.

Fortunately I didn’t act on any of these feelings – the tennis being played on the courts was so spectacular that I wouldn’t have dared.

Speaking of spectacular, nobody on the women’s side was more spectacular than the 25-year-old Serbian Sensation known as “JJ” to her fans.  I prefer Jelly, but that’s another story for another day.  Whatever you call her, the Serb put together her strongest effort of the young season, staging a Houdini of a comeback against Sara Errani in the 3rd round, then riding the momentum to four straight set victories, and her 12th career title on Sunday.

The win comes on the heels of a parting of ways with former coach, Ricardo Sanchez, and the formation of a temporary no-strings-attached agreement with Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy Director of Tennis, Chip Brooks.

Jankovic, who hasn’t been beyond the 4th round of a Slam since her 2008 U.S. Open final appearance, played at such a high level in this tournament that it’s hard not to consider the possibility of another run up the tennis ladder and into the top-5 again.  The former No. 1 reached the semifinals or better in three of four majors in ’08, but success has not come so easily since.

Part of her success, and perhaps part of what has been missing since she has slipped, has been her ability to aggressively dictate play to her opponents.  Perhaps Jankovic has tended to lean on her defensive prowess too much over the years – but not here at Indian Wells.  She is content no more.  Jankovic seemed to forget to put the pedal to the metal at times in ’09 when the situation called for it.  She didn’t take advantage of her ability to hit very heavy balls and put very significant pressure on her adversaries.  Brooks took notice of this and started coaching her to embrace her aggressive nature.

It’s some of the strategical terrain that Chip Brooks, Jelena’s coach at the moment, mentioned to me in our conversation today, and it was the stuff that was obviously crucial to her success this week.  When Jankovic started to get some wind in her sails with a very decisive win against Israeli Shahar Peer in the 4th round, Brooks said he knew they had a shot.  As a witness to that match, I must admit, it was pretty impressive.  Routinely stepping inside the baseline and scorching winners from both wings against Peer, Jelly was getting on a roll that she was destined to never get off.

Could this be the real deal, or were we simply remembering with fondness a Jankovic that we would more than likely never see again?   Were we seeing ghosts in the machine?

Apparently not.

Suddenly, with a juggernaut of a run to a very prestigious title, Jankovic has worked her way into that category of players that just might do some damage come springtime.

Could she be coming of age for a second time?

It was hard not to notice the ease with which she closed out matches against the likes of Sam Stosur (new to the top-10 this week) and Caroline Wozniacki (now No. 2 in the world).  Not only did she consistently make the first strike against her opponents, taking them out of crucial points, but Jankovic displayed some of the best serving she’s ever produced.  Surrendering three breaks in the final three matches pretty much tells the story.  And what was perhaps even more impressive is that she didn’t face a break point throughout the very tense 2nd set that decided the final against Wozniacki.

“I just have to stay focused and do what I do best,” Jankovic told the press as she spoke to them after her semifinal victory over stosur.  It was a telling statement, and it is indeed good news that Jankovic appears to finally remember what she does best.  Chip Brooks deserves some credit for the turnaround, but, as he told me himself “this isn’t about me, she’s the one out there hitting the ball.”

Indeed she is.

ATP REVIEW WITH VOO

Robin Soderling came to Rotterdam having lost his last six matches and started the tournament by losing the first set in his opening match with Florent Serra. But since then, he played some of best indoor tennis and won nine consecutive sets, at 6-4 2-0 for him in the final, a 2007 champion Mikhaily Youzhny was forced to retire because of right hamstring. Youzhny had beaten a new No 2 Novak Djokovic in the semifinal in two tie-breaks. “It’s been a very good week overall,” said Soderling who won his fifth title. “I started out struggling a bit in my first two rounds, struggling to find my form, but I worked hard and managed to get better with every match”.

Fernando Verdasco claimed his fourth career title (first indoor) after beating Andy Roddick 3-6 6-4 6-4 in the final of SAP Open in San Jose. For the Spaniard, it was the first ever indoor tournament in USA. Verdasco broke Roddick’s serve at 1:1 in the second set and at 4:4 in the third set to finish the match with his 15th aces (Roddick served 10). Roddick has already won 13 matches this season, second best after Marin Cilic (15). The 19-year-old Ricardas Berankis (No. 255) of Lithuania, became the first man from his country to reach an ATP singles quarterfinal.

Juan Carlos Ferrero needed only 60 minutes to demolish Lukasz Kubot 6-1 6-0 in Costa Do Saupe, Brazil. Ferrero who celebrated his 30th birthday during the tournament, won the 13th title in his 30th career final. “You never expect to play a one-sided final like this,” admitted Ferrero. “One is always nervous in the beginning of a final, and it wasn’t different today. I thought I played well from the beginning and with two breaks of serve ahead quite early in the match I never looked back”. Kubot reached his second final of his career and for the second time lost to a top-seeded player (lost to Djokovic the final in Belgrade 2009). The Pole had had very busy Friday – he won two singles matches and one doubles (losing only 13 games in the process) before overcoming Igor Andreev in the semifinal despite being down 1:3 in the final set.

Courier Tops Sampras To Win Breezeplay Title In Charlotte

CHARLOTTE, N.C., September 27, 2009 – Jim Courier defeated Pete Sampras 2-6, 6-4, 10-8 (Champions Tie-breaker) Sunday to win the singles title at the $150,000 Breezeplay Championships at The Palisades at The Palisades Country Club in Charlotte, N.C. The victory was Courier’s first over Sampras since the first round of the 1997 Italian Open in Rome and his first on a hard court over the 14-time major singles champion since the quarterfinals of the 1991 US Open.

Courier earned $60,000 by winning the title in Charlotte, his ninth career title on the Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for champion tennis players age 30 and over. Courier also earned 800 ranking points to extend his lead as the No. 1 player on the Outback Champions Series.

After splitting the first two sets, the two Hall of Famers played the customary first-to-10 point “Champions” tie-breaker, played in lieu of a third set. Courier clinched victory when Sampras double-faulted at 8-9 in the tie-breaker.

“That last double fault was hard on match point,” said Sampras. “I was serving right into the sun on that one and it hurt a little bit.”

Said Courier, “I wasn’t expecting that match point to end on a double fault. He was going for 110 mph second serves and sometimes he’s good enough to get away with that serve.”

During their ATP careers, Sampras and Courier played a total of 20 times, Sampras winning on 16 occasions, including the Wimbledon final in 1993. Sampras won their only previous meeting on the Outback Champions Series, a 6-2, 6-4 win in round-robin play during the 2007 event in Athens, Greece.

“I think he was having a hard time picking up my serve at the beginning,” said Sampras, who earned $30,000 for the runner-up showing. “Eventually he got there and started predicting it. Jim’s a guy who’s always going to compete and I knew that once we started the second set. I knew he was going to compete for that second set. I had a few chances in that tiebreaker and just couldn’t get it. It was disappointing.”

Due to weekend rains in Charlotte, Courier was forced to play his semifinal match against Todd Martin at 10 am on Sunday, postponed from Saturday evening. Following his 7-5, 6-2 semifinal win over Martin, Courier was able rest until the final with Sampras started at 4 pm, following Martin’s 7-5, 6-2 win over Pat Cash in the event’s third-place match.

“I was pretty relieved when his match point serve went out,” said Courier of the final point of the singles final. “I felt flat in the first set. I thought I’d be loose, but my legs felt tight and lethargic. I definitely got more boost in my legs and my serve really started to click. If my serve clicks I can hang in the match.”

The loss marked only the second time that Sampras has been defeated on the Outback Champions Series since joining the circuit in 2007. In 2008, he lost to John McEnroe 2-6, 7-5 10-4 (Champions Tie-breaker) in round-robin play in Boston.

Sampras won the opening event on the 2009 Outback Champions Series, defeating McEnroe in the final of the Champions Cup Boston in February.
McEnroe won the second event of the year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, defeating Courier in the final. Sampras won his second title of the year at the Del Mar Development Champions Cup in Los Cabos, Mexico, defeating Rafter in the final. Courier won his first title of the 2009 season in April at the Cayman Islands, defeating Arias in the final. Cash successfully defended his title on the grass courts at the Hall of Fame Champions Cup in Newport, R.I. in August, defeating Courier in the final. Following Charlotte, the next event on the Outback Champions Series will be held in Surprise, Ariz., where Andre Agassi will make his debut Oct. 8-11.

Founded in 2005, the Outback Champions Series features some of the biggest names in tennis over the last 25 years, including Andre Agassi, Sampras, McEnroe, Courier and others. To be eligible to compete on the Outback Champions Series, players must have reached at least a major singles final, been ranked in the top five in the world or played singles on a championship Davis Cup team. The Outback Champions Series features seven events on its 2009 schedule with each event featuring $150,000 in prize money as well as Champions Series points that will determine the year-end Champions Rankings No. 1.

InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a New York City-based independent producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Outback Champions Series, a collection of tennis events featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, charity events, corporate outings and tennis fantasy camps such as the annual “Ultimate Fantasy Camp”. Through 2008, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment events have raised over $4 million for charity. For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com.

Cash Repeats As Newport Champion; Denies Courier First Grass Title

NEWPORT, R.I., August 23, 2009 – Pat Cash successfully defended his singles title at the $150,000 Hall of Fame Champions Cup defeating Jim Courier 6-3, 6-4 Sunday in the championship match at the International Tennis Hall of Fame. The tournament victory was Cash’s second career title on the Outback Champions Series, the global tennis circuit for champions tennis players age 30 and over, and earned the 1987 Wimbledon champion $60,000. Cash’s tournament win at Newport last year was also over Courier in the final by the exact 6-3, 6-4 score line.

“I’ve been lucky this week,” said Cash. “I got a few lucky breaks today and you need that to beat these guys, who are all champions. The great thing about this tour, the Outback Champions Series, is that it is serious tennis. We get out there and you can see how hard we’re trying, but it’s also fun,”

Cash is regarded as one of the best serve-and-volley and grass-court players in tennis over the last 30 years. In addition to his 1987 Wimbledon title, Cash was a singles finalist on grass at the 1987 Australian Open. The 44-year-old Australian was the lone Wimbledon singles champion in the eight-player Newport field and was most comfortable on the grass courts at the International Tennis Hall of Fame all week.

“I wouldn’t say I grew up on the grass-court but I have played a lot of grass-court tennis,” said Cash. “It’s natural for me to play this style of game. It’s easy. I don’t have to think about it. I just serve and volley. I’m not smart enough to work out a game tactic against Jim so I just kind of keep serving and running to the net.”

Courier, playing in his 13th career Outback Champions Series final, was seeking the first career professional title on grass courts. However, the 1993 Wimbledon finalist and four-time major tournament champion earned $30,000 with the runner-up showing as well as 800 ranking points that further solidified his No. 1 ranking on the Outback Champions Series.

“If you watched this match at all you could see how difficult it is to return Pat’s serve,” said Courier. “He really spotted his serve beautifully once he got in to the rhythm today and from there I’m struggling because he’s such a beautiful volleyer. If he gets his hands on anything at the net then it seems the point’s over. I felt under pressure because I wasn’t getting to break point on his serve then that’s a lot of pressure on mine. He’s a great champion. He’s obviously a great grass-court champion. You don’t win Wimbledon if you’re not. It’s disappointing because I was hoping to win my first grass-court title.”

In Sunday’s third-place match, Todd Martin defeated Mark Philippoussis 6-3, 6-7(4), 10-6 (Champions Tie-Breaker).

Pete Sampras won the opening event on the 2009 Outback Champions Series, defeating John McEnroe in the final of the Champions Cup Boston in February. McEnroe won the second event of the year in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, defeating Courier in the final. Sampras won his second title of the year at the Del Mar Development Champions Cup in Los Cabos, Mexico, defeating Patrick Rafter in the final. Courier won his first title of the 2009 season in April at the Cayman Islands, defeating Jimmy Arias in the final. Following Newport, remaining events on the Outback Champions Series will be held in Charlotte (Sept. 24-27), Surprise, Ariz. (Oct. 8-11) and Dubai, U.A.E. (Nov. 18-21).

Founded in 2005, the Outback Champions Series features some of the biggest names in tennis over the last 25 years, including Andre Agassi, Sampras, McEnroe, Courier and others. To be eligible to compete on the Outback Champions Series, players must have reached at least a major singles final, been ranked in the top five in the world or played singles on a championship Davis Cup team. The Outback Champions Series features eight events on its 2009 schedule with each event featuring $150,000 in prize money as well as Champions Series points that will determine the year-end Champions Rankings No. 1.

The International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, established in 1954, is a non-profit institution dedicated to preserving the history of tennis, inspiring and encouraging junior tennis development, enshrining tennis heroes and heroines, and providing a landmark for tennis enthusiasts worldwide. It was recognized as the sport’s official Hall of Fame in 1986 by the International Tennis Federation, the governing body of tennis. The International Tennis Hall of Fame’s legendary grass courts remain the only competition grass courts available for professional events and exhibitions, while also available for public play. For more information about the International Tennis Hall of Fame & Museum, events and programs, please call 401-849-3990 or log on to www.tennisfame.com

InsideOut Sports + Entertainment is a New York City-based independent producer of proprietary events and promotions founded in 2004 by former world No. 1 and Hall of Fame tennis player Jim Courier and former SFX and Clear Channel executive Jon Venison. In 2005, InsideOut launched its signature property, the Outback Champions Series, a collection of tennis events featuring the greatest names in tennis over the age of 30. In addition, InsideOut produces many other successful events including “Legendary Night” exhibitions, charity events, private corporate outings and tennis fantasy camps such as the annual “Ultimate Fantasy Camp”. Through 2008, InsideOut Sports + Entertainment events have raised over $4 million for charity. For more information, please log on to www.InsideOutSE.com or www.ChampionsSeriesTennis.com.

Federer Wins 61st Title To Overtake Agassi

Roger Federer is back in top-of-the-world form heading into the U.S. Open.

The Swiss star played up to his No. 1 ranking Sunday, beating Novak Djokovic 6-1, 7-5 for the Cincinnati Masters title and plenty of confidence heading into the Open, which he has won each of the last five years.

Federer’s win Sunday gave him a 61st career title, which, according to the book THE BUD COLLINS HISTORY OF TENNIS, moved him ahead of Andre Agassi into seventh place alone for most men’s singles titles won in a career. He is now one tournament title shy of equaling Bjorn Borg and Guillermo Vilas, who each won 62 titles, and jumping into tie for sixth place all-time. He is five tournament titles shy of overtaking Pete Sampras and his 64 titles and moving into fourth place by himself. Jimmy Connors holds the record with 109 singles titles, followed by Ivan Lendl with 94 and John McEnroe with 77.

Federer’s goal in Cincinnati was to work off the rust from a brief layoff during his stellar season. He won his first French Open championship and an epic Wimbledon match against Andy Roddick for his record 15th Grand Slam title, then took time off to become the father of twin daughters.

He dominated at the outset against Djokovic, who hadn’t dropped a set all week. Federer breezed through the opening set, but encountered more resistance in the second, having to save a set point as he served at 4-5 down.

But it was saved with a fine service and in the next game he broke Djokovic for the fourth time in the match.

Federer duly served out the match to love, claiming his third Cincinnati title as his Serbian opponent netted a return after one hour and 30 minutes.

Joked Djokovic after the match in the trophy ceremony, “The closest I was about to get to the first place trophy was now…Unfortunately. I was born in the wrong era.”

Federer will seek his sixth straight US Open title in New York, starting August 31.