| Roger Federer holds the trophy after defeating Mardy Fish, at the Cincinnati Masters final, on Sunday. (AP) |
Those critics who were already drafting Roger Federers tennis obituary may have to put down their pens. The Swiss ended one of the most barren spells of his career in impressive fashion on Sunday, defeating American Mardy Fish in a rugged three-set encounter in Cincinnati and, in so doing, recording his first ATP Tour title success in seven months.
It was Federers 17th Masters title and, perhaps, one of the most timely, given one of the former world No. 1s favourite Grand Slams, the US Open, begins in New York later this month.
On this evidence, few would bet against Federer adding another major to his collection. Federer has played far better than Sundays rather scratchy performance against Fish, the home favourite, but his determination to win out in a war of attrition was an ominous statement of intent for the likes of Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. The lesson is clear: write off Federer at your peril.
In a match dominated by the serve, Federer secured the only break deep into the deciding set to clinch a 6-7, 7-6, 6-4 triumph in two hours and 40 minutes.
The outcome means Federer will be in perfect shape to regain the crown at Flushing Meadows after his run of five successive titles was ended by Argentinas Juan Martin Del Potro in last years final.
Federer showed his opponent no mercy by serving it out with ease to claim his fourth title in Cincinnati. It was a perfect match for both of us, Federer said.
Federer said the biggest obstacles he is likely to face in pursuit of a 17th major crown will come from familiar quarters.
I guess the top four have the best shot again. We can all play really well on the hard courts. Murray has proven himself, so has (Novak) Djokovic on the hardcourts and so has Rafa. Hes won the Australian Open, said Federer.
Maybe US Open is a bit faster, so you figure Rafa will struggle a bit more. But if the draw goes his way, hell be in the final (stages) and have a crack to the title, too. He knows how to win Slams. Hes won all the other ones. So I think its gonna be an interesting US Open.
But there is no doubt who the 29-year-old Federer believes has the biggest chance of all — himself — and he is far from fazed by the rivals he faces.
Ill always have new challenges coming up. I used to play against Pete Sampras, Andre Agassi, Carlos Moya and Todd Martin and all those guys. Next generation was sort of already my generation almost. It was Andy Roddick and Lleyton Hewitt and Marat Safin and Juan Carlos Ferrero, he said.
I think every five years you'll have someone new. I think the next generation is probably already sort of knocking on the door.
Meanwhile, Mahesh Bhupathi and his Belarusian Max Mirnyi ended runners-up, losing the summit clash of the event 3-6, 4-6 to second seeds Americans Mike and Bob Bryan.
The defeat means that the duo will have to wait for their first title together since Rome event in 2004.
They had lost the Mimai Masters final to Leander Paes and Lukas Dlouhy and Monte-Carlo final to Nenad Zimonjic and Daniel Nestor. The fourth seeds were up 2-0 in the opening set, but Bryan brothers fought back strongly to win the next five games to securing a one-set lead. The Bryans broke the second-set deadlock in the seventh game with a break of Bhupathis serve and went on to win their eight title of the season in just under an hour.
Bhupathi and Mirnyi split $69,250 and earned 600 ranking points each for ending runners-up.