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Tennis • Djokovic Caps Off Roller-Coaster Ride At Cincinnati Masters By Winning Title In Appropriate Fashion

By Ricky Dimon

On the court…off the court…nothing was easy for anyone at the 2020 Western & Southern Open–not even for world No. 1 Novak Djokovic.

It was a tournament played in a different city (New York instead of Cincinnati), behind closed doors (no fans allowed), and included a previously unscheduled day of pause to shed light on social justice in the United States (inspired by Naomi Osaka’s planned boycott of her semifinal match).

For Djokovic, it was a tournament that began with a neck issue that forced him to withdraw from doubles. The Serb struggled with it throughout his opening round match against Ricardas Berankis before rolling through his next two matches without any apparent problems. But the neck thing bothered him again during semifinal action on Friday and it was compounded by stomach issues. Djokovic needed exactly three hours to overcome Roberto Bautista Agut 4-6, 6-4, 7-6(0) after the Spaniard served for the match at 6-5 in the third.

For a while it looked like Djokovic would not have anything left in the tank for Milos Raonic in Saturday’s final. The red-hot Canadian coasted through the first set with the loss of only one game, but in typical fashion Djokovic got a second wind when it mattered most and ended up triumphing 1-6, 6-3, 6-4.

“I was a bit slow at the beginning,” the 17-time major champion admitted, “but I thought I did well considering the form that Milos is in. He has beaten some great players during this week. He’s serving rockets on the court and it’s really hard to return. You need all the freshness mentally and all the focus that you can possibly have.

“So I did struggle with that, I must say. It was not the most ideal situation for me to kind of be competing [at the end of] a big tournament and have to deal with a lot of stuff off the court, but those were the circumstances. I accepted them. I was fortunate to get the title.”

In addition to the social injustice happenings that pushed the conclusion of this Cincinnati event from Friday to Saturday, Djokovic is also embroiled in ATP controversy. Earlier on Saturday it was announced that he and Vasek Pospisil are creating the Professional Tennis Players Association (PTPA) to rival the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP)–with which they and others have become disgruntled over the past few years.

It is another developing story off the court, but on the court Djokovic was simply too good for everyone–again. He is now 23-0 this season. Even more amazing is that he has now won every Masters 1000 tournament at least twice. No one else has done it once.

“I think he had a better start in 2011,” Raonic noted, “but there is not much more he could ask. A lot of the matches (this week) he was, from what I can recall, winning quite comfortably and a few of them it came down to the wire. He stepped up in those situations. It just shows why he’s deservedly No. 1 in the world.”

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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