MASON, Ohio (AP)—Changing diapers doesn’t seem to bother Papa Federer’s game.
With a dominant first set on Sunday, Roger Federer showed that he’s in top-of-the-world form after his time off to become a father. A 6-1, 7-5 victory over Novak Djokovic brought him the Cincinnati Masters title, his first championship since his twin girls were born last month.
“That’s the special part, especially winning for the first time as a dad,” Federer said. “It gets me going emotionally a little bit, because I know it’s been a wonderful summer.”
His stellar season can get even better beginning next week at the U.S. Open. The Swiss star has won the last five titles there, and his performance on Sunday suggested he’s fully capable of another. Djokovic hadn’t lost a set all week, but was never in the title match.
“The closest I was going to get to the first-place trophy is now,” the world’s fourth-ranked player said, standing 5 feet away from the crystal bowl that goes to the winner of the $3 million Western & Southern Financial Group Masters.
Federer’s glass-enclosed trophy case in Switzerland has gotten a lot of precious additions lately. The 28-year-old star won his first French Open championship, then outlasted Andy Roddick in an epic five-set Wimbledon match that brought him a record 15th Grand Slam title.
He shuttled between hospital and practice court for three weeks after his wife, Mirka, gave birth to twins in July. His goal in Cincinnati was to work off the rust and get ready for the Open.
“I felt like my game was already pretty well in place in practice, so knew coming over here it was not just to show up,” he said. “That it paid off so quickly, I’m a little bit surprised, you know?”
He took control right away, breaking Djokovic’s serve in a second game that lasted 13 minutes and 22 points overall. The 22-year-old Serb kept up better in the second set, but knew he was headed for his fourth runner-up finish in a Masters tournament this year.
Djokovic is looking forward to the U.S. Open, where he had one of his worst moments last year. He got into a verbal squabble with crowd-favorite Andy Roddick, who made a flippant remark about the Serb’s numerous injuries during the tournament.
When Djokovic took exception to the remarks after a match at Arthur Ashe Stadium, the crowd booed. Djokovic later apologized.
“It was unfortunate for me that it happened in one of the four biggest events in the world, and it happened in the city and tournament where I’ve always felt great, felt at home,” he said Sunday. “But, you know, it’s the past. I forgot about it. I really look forward to playing there, and hopefully the fans will accept me in a good way.”
Federer knows what kind of reception he’ll get, from street corners to center court. They love him in NY.
Last year, he was struggling when he showed up in Cincinnati and took an early loss, which opened the way for Rafael Nadal to end his four-year run as the world’s No. 1-ranked player. A disappointing showing at the Olympics in China made Federer feel worse. Some commentators suggested he’d lost his ability to dominate the big moments.
He landed in New York and everything changed.
“I was lucky enough that when I got to New York, the fans were really there trying to push me back to No. 1 right away,” he said. “They were great, you know. All the cab drivers and everybody was stopping to wish me luck. It was something that I’ve never really experienced before in New York. I think that really helped turn it around for me.”
Feeding off the energy, he beat Djokovic in the semifinals and Andy Murray for the title. When Nadal had to take two months off after the French Open to let his sore knees heal, Federer took advantage of the opening and moved back to No. 1.
Federer will be trying to win a sixth straight U.S. Open title, something no one has accomplished since Bill Tilden did it from 1920-25.
“The fans for me really turned it around, and that’s why this year I’m so excited going back there,” Federer said. “I’ve had even better results, so I hope I can again show them what I can do on a tennis court.”