No medal involved this time. Little drama, either. Novak Djokovic simply ground his way to another tournament title match.
And Roger Federer will be waiting for him.
Djokovic reached the final of the Western & Southern Open for the second straight year on Saturday, beating Juan Martin del Potro 6-3, 6-2 in a reprise of their Olympics match. Del Potro defeated Djokovic for the bronze medal on Wimbledon’s lush grass two weeks ago.
The final will match the world’s top two players, the first time that has happened in Cincinnati. If Federer wins, it will give him a record five titles in the tournament.
“It’s a nice bonus, really,” Federer said. “When I was a kid I wasn’t thinking of winning five Cincinnatis, but then again, here I am in this great situation being able to do it, the first man ever. So I’m obviously excited. Very often when I do now reach a final there is something on the line. Here we go — there is something there.”
The top-ranked Federer beat Swiss countryman Stanislas Wawrinka 7-6 (4), 6-3 in the other semi-final. It will be the seventh time that Federer and Djokovic have played for a tournament title, the last time was last year in Dubai. Federer beat Djokovic for the Cincinnati title in 2009.
Federer leads their career series 15-12, but it has taken a few interesting turns lately. Djokovic beat him in the semi-finals at the US Open last year, then again in the semis at Rome and the French Open. Federer got the upper hand again in the semi-finals at Wimbledon.
“I hope I’m fresher than him tomorrow,” Federer said. “We’ll see how it goes.”
Venus Williams played through a bad back that forced her to get treatment and reduced her serve to 101kph before finally fading in the third set as China’s Li Na reached the women’s final with a 7-5, 3-6, 6-1 victory.
Li is trying for her first title this season. She lost in finals at Sydney, Rome and Montreal, where Petra Kvitova beat her a week ago.
Kvitova could not turn it into a rematch. She got sloppy in the final set and lost to Angelique Kerber 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 in the other semi-final on Saturday night. Kerber ended Serena Williams’ 19-match winning streak on Friday, keeping her in contention for her third title of the season.
Djokovic reached the Cincinnati finals last year, but had to quit in the second set because of a sore shoulder, giving the title to Andy Murray.
He won the Rogers Cup in Toronto on Aug. 12, leaving him a little tired, but he managed to get some rest at the suburban Cincinnati tournament. He was on court for only a half-hour on Thursday night, when Nikolay Davydenko had to quit their match because of a sore shoulder.
Djokovic and del Potro exchanged a lot of shots from the baseline in the first set, with both players wasting chances to take control early. Djokovic got to the semi-final by holding serve in all 22 games during the tournament, facing only four break points. He faced that many in the third game of the match.
The Serb saved one of those break points with a 30-shot rally that ended with Del Potro dumping a backhand into the net, then dropping his head.
“We played long rallies,” Djokovic said. “It could have easily gone the other way. I managed to hang in there and play my best when I needed it.”
One of Del Potro’s biggest concerns is his left wrist, which has nagged him for some time. The right-hander will have it checked before the US Open by the same doctor who operated on his right wrist in 2010, when he missed most of the season while recovering.