Federer snaps losing streak against Murray
Roger Federer had lost five consecutive matches to Nadal before a straight-set win in the finals at Madrid in May, and on Saturday, the world's No. 1 player snapped a four-match losing streak against the second-ranked Murray to reach the finals of the Cincinnati Masters.
Federer won 6-2, 7-6 (8) and will face fourth-ranked Novak Djokovic in Sunday's final. Djokovic earned his second consecutive appearance in the final and snapped his own five-match losing streak against No. 3 Rafael Nadal with a 6-1, 6-4 win in the other semifinal.
The top-seeded Federer, who won the tournament in 2005 and 2007, put more emphasis on reaching the finals than on snapping his personal losing streak against Murray, the defending champion.
"It doesn't matter to me," said Federer, the winner of a record 15 Grand Slams, including the last two at the French Open and Wimbledon. "I'm past that point. People try to hype it up, but I don't read anything into it. I know my game's on, and when my game's on, I know I can beat any player in the world."
Federer never faced deuce while serving, keeping Murray on his heels in the first match between the tour's top two players in the history of the $3 million Western & Southern Financial Group Masters.
"I was just happy that I managed to keep it close in the second set, because I returned poorly and served poorly," said Murray, who had one set point in the tiebreaker at 8-7 before going wide with a backhand.
"Against Roger, if you do both of those things, it's going to be very difficult."
Federer was leading the tiebreaker 9-8 when Murray double-faulted to lose to the top seed for the first time in five matches since the finals of last year's U.S. Open.
Federer took control of the first set when Murray hit a backhand long on break point in the fourth game. Federer clinched the first set when he successfully challenged a call on his second break point of the eighth game.
"If you let Roger play well, then he's very, very difficult to beat," Murray said. "I mean, the first set, I was leaving the ball short and giving him a lot of second serves to look at and not making a whole lot of returns, so therefore, I was unable to put any pressure on him. He was going for his shots because I was leaving the ball in the middle of the court."
Federer felt the same way, especially since he didn't have to deal with the wind that plagued the tournament's previous two days. Saturday's match was played in unusually cool weather under cloudy skies with a steady breeze from the northwest.
"In the end, I felt like I deserved to win because I wasn't afraid to go after shots," he said.
Djokovic, who lost to Murray in last year's final, came out aggressively against Nadal. The Serb fired five aces and 13 winners in the first set, including a backhand passing shot to break Nadal in the fourth game. Djokovic gained an edge in the second set when Nadal knocked a backhand into the net on break point in the fifth game, but he maintained the pressure, finishing with 21 winners to Nadal's 10.
"(Nadal's) one of the best players ever, and he puts a lot of effort into every point, so even though I was a set and a break up, I knew he wasn't finished," said Djokovic, who has won his last two matches against Federern but is 4-7 overall. "I did everything I needed to do to win."
Nadal, the former top-ranked player who was in his second tournament after missing two months with tendinitis in both knees, still is adjusting to the speed and intensity of playing the highest-ranked players, he said.
"I knew I had to play aggressively, but he was always inside the line and I was always outside," he said. "I wasn't 100-percent ready to play. I need to play at this level more than one time. I know, when I play well, I can play at this level."
Last updated: 11:05 am Thursday, December 13, 2012