CINCINNAT (APP) – World number one Novak Djokovic will be aiming for a slice of ATP history on Sunday when he takes on six-time champion Roger Federer in the ATP Cincinnati Masters final.
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Djokovic battled back to beat Ukrainian qualifier Alexandr Dolgopolov 4-6, 7-6 (7/5), 6-2 on Saturday to set up his 41st career meeting with Federer — who dispatched last week s Montreal winner Andy Murray 6-4, 7-6 (8/6).
Djokovic, seeking a 20th ATP Masters 1000 title, will try to claim his first trophy on the hardcourts of Cincinnati after losing in the final four times.
With a win he d become the first player to triumph in all nine of the ATP s elite Masters 1000 events — a feat that Federer said would be “quite unbelievable.”
“I gave myself another chance to fight for the trophy,” Djokovic said. “That was the goal and that was the wish coming here in Cincinnati.
“Obviously the last couple of years it was always in the back of my mind, the potential history making, and obviously that motivates me even more.
“Having that in back of my mind helped me to go through matches like one today.”
But Djokovic said he d have to play better than he did against 66th-ranked Dolgopolov.
Although Djokovic gained the upper hand in the second set with a break for a 5-3 lead, the Ukrainian promptly broke back to push the set to a tiebreak in which Dolgopolov led 3-0 and 5-4 before Djokovic managed to level the match at a set apiece.
From there, Djokovic took control, breaking Dolgopolov twice for a 4-1 lead in the third en route to the victory in two hours and 20 minutes.
The outcome mirrored their most recent meeting, in which Djokovic defeated Dolgopolov 6-7 (3/7), 7-5, 6-0 in the round of 16 at the Miami Masters.
Along the way Djokovic received on-court treatment early in the second set for tightness in his abdomen. But the Serbian star said the trouble was nothing to worry about with the US Open approaching in nine days.
“It s OK, nothing major,” Djokovic said.
Djokovic and Federer are even with 20 wins apiece in 40 prior career meetings.
Djokovic has won the last three, including last month s Wimbledon final.
“I m excited to be in another final,” said Federer, who has beaten Djokovic in two Cincinnati finals. “It s the ultimate test to play Novak, he s had a great run the last few years.”
Federer s win over Murray was his fifth straight over the Scot.
The 34-year-old Swiss earned the opening set with a break in the third game but had to duel in a tiebreaker to claim another straight-sets win and secure his spot in the final on his second match point without the loss of serve this week.
“I got off to a good start in the first set,” said Federer, whose impressive Cincinnati record stands at 41-8. “It was my first day match so I had to be focused to the conditions.
“In the second there were not that many chances. I focused on serve. It was great to hold against a quality player like Andy. I tried to mix up the second serve and today it worked pretty well.
Winning the semi-final also opens the door for Federer to steal back the ATP number two ranking which Murray claimed this week after his victory in Montreal.
With a seventh title he would return to number two in time to gain the second seeding at the US Open, which begins on August 31.
“I won t lose sleep over it,” Murray said of the ranking. “Obviously I would rather be ranked number two going (into the US Open).”
Murray said the defeat carried one positive — the chance to get an extra days rest.
“I need that,” he said. “I played a lot of tennis the last couple of weeks, and obviously a lot of the other guys that have been playing a lot didn t participate in the Davis Cup this year either.”