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12:20PM

Will Nole Wear Golden Masters Crown?

by JAMES HENRY

CINCINNATI – Once again, Novak Djokovic is on the edge of history.

He is just one win away from claiming his first pottery vase trophy at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.

It’s a victory that would make him the first to win all nine ATP Masters 1000 titles – the elusive Career Golden Masters.

To some, because of how they are scheduled, winning an ATP Masters tournament is more difficult than a Grand Slam event. Masters champions must win a quarterfinal on Friday, a semifinal on Saturday and a final on Sunday, sometimes after also playing on Thursday. 

Unseeded players who manage to traverse through the highly competitive draw often have to win six matches in seven days. At Slams, the champions win seven matches over a two-week period.

Slams, though, are played with a best-of-five-set rather than best-of-three-set format.

Regardless, winning a Masters title isn’t easy. And, so far, winning all of them has been impossible.

The tournaments are held throughout the year in Indian Wells, Calif.; Miami; Monte-Carlo, Monaco; Madrid; Rome; Montreal; Cincinnati; Shanghai; and Paris.

Despite four final appearances, Djokovic has never won in Cincinnati. He lost to Andy Murray in 2008 and 2011 and Roger Federer in 2009 and 2012.

“I gave myself another chance to fight for the trophy. That was the goal and that was the wish coming here in Cincinnati,” the World No. 1 said. 

“Obviously, last couple of years, it was always in the back of my mind, the potential history making, and obviously that motivates me even more.”

However, Djokovic said he is looking at this year’s final against six-time champ Federer as simply another match.

“Of course, somewhere in back of your mind you do have that awareness of what’s at stake, but generally it’s a match like any other,” the 28-year-old said. “I know what I need to do. Hopefully, I’ll be able to lift up a notch my game at least for few levels higher so I can be in a good position to win it.”

In his past 45 matches, only Murray and Stan Wawrinka have beaten Djokovic. But it will be a challenge to defeat Federer – they have played 40 times and are deadlocked at 20 wins apiece.

The Swiss maestro is the winner of 17 Grand Slam singles titles and, as he adjusts to the new generation of players, has made some tactical changes to his tennis game, now frequently coming forward to the net and trying to shorten the points.

“He’s still very dominant. He’s reaching final stages of the Grand Slams and big events. You know that he’s always going to play on a high level, so he always makes you work for your win,” Djokovic said. “His forehand is still out there as one of the best weapons he’s got. He has a very precise serve and chips the slice, comes to the net and takes away your time.”

“He’s got this great variation in his game, this great talent and all-round game. He can basically play defense, offense, whatever he wants. I think that’s what allows him to stay that long in top of the men’s game all these years,” he added.

Djokovic said he appreciates the support he gets from people – Americans, fellow Serbians and others –in the United States.

“You always like to have the crowd behind you because this can give you an extra motivation and edge and make you feel good on the court. I do feel I have quite good support,” he said. “I’m very grateful for that.”

The four-time finalist, obviously, has performed well in Cincinnati.

“Can’t be negative about it. But I wasn’t able to win the title in the past,” Djokovic said. “Maybe it’s the condition, time of the year. I don’t want to really look into that and find an excuse why this has not been a tournament that I won in the past. 

“I just want to believe that fifth is the lucky time and we keep on going.”

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