World no. 1 Novak Djokovic inches nearer to becoming the first man in history to win all nine Masters Series events or the “Career Golden Masters”, as he confronts qualifier Alexandr Dolgopolov, the unorthodox Ukrainian in the Cincinnati semifinals. Novak Djokovic tries to get one step closer to a finals trip for a 5th time in Cincinnati (0-4 in finals in Cincy). The Western & Southern Open remains the only Masters level title that he has failed to win in his career. For Alexandr Dolgopolov, a win would give him his first career Masters level final.
With his resonating 6-4, 6-1 triumph over Stan Wawrinka on Friday, Novak Djokovic maintained his Cincinnati Masters aspiration alive and now faces surprise semifinalist Alexandr Dolgopolov for a place in the final.
A quarterfinal against Stan Wawrinka, the man who abnegated him the only Grand Slam he hasn’t yet won back in June, appeared like an austere challenge, particularly given that Djokovic hadn’t played his best tennis either last week in Montreal – where he lost in the final to Andy Murray – or in Cincinnati, struggling through in three sets over David Goffin in the third round. But in the end Djokovic was rock-solid against Wawrinka, edging a tight first set before racing away with the second for a comprehensive & astounding 6-4, 6-1 victory which was far from the classic the tennis world was anticipating for.
Djokovic won’t be particularly threatened by the sight of Dolgopolov as a SF opponent – not with Andy Murray and Roger Federer still safely settled in the bottom half of the draw. The top seed’s projected SF opponent was sixth seed Tomas Berdych, but the Czech – who is going through a lusterless spell – was the latest victim of an invigorated run from Dolgopolov.
The Ukrainian, ranked world no. 66, actually had to qualify for the Cincinnati Masters draw, but benefitted from the first-round bye that would have been Kei Nishikori’s, who withdrew after the draw was made. Dolgopolov has certainly made the most of that slash of luck, beating Bernard Tomic, Jerzy Janowicz – who had eliminated Gael Monfils – and finally sixth seed Berdych in comprehensive fashion, 6-4, 6-2 to reach the second Masters semifinal of his career so far.
Dolgopolov and Djokovic have played four times and each time the Serbian has been the winner (all coming in Masters or Grand Slam settings). Intriguingly, however, two of their four matches have gone the length, including their most recent meeting in Miami in March, when Djokovic won 6-7(3), 7-5, 6-0. Dolgopolov’s slicing, dicing, aggressive game can wreak mayhem with other players, even Djokovic, for a set, but if Djokovic is as rock-solid as he was against Wawrinka, he will counter & blunt Dolgopolov’s attacking edges and put himself just one match away from a fifth tilt at the Cincinnati Masters title.
Djokovic unquestionably wants this title for his “Golden Master” as the only one he has failed to win in his career. He should also be savouring either a revenge shot against Andy Murray or another chance to dent Roger Federer’s confidence in the final. Ironically, Novak’s never lost a SF in Cincy but has never won a final here (4-0 in SF & 0-4 in Finals).
Prediction: Djokovic wins in straight sets.
Off the record: Dolgopolov suffers from a hereditary disorder known as Gilbert’s Syndrome, which affects his liver, blood and often causes fatigue. His condition worsens when he has to cross continents in extensive travel, requiring intravenous drug treatments and monitored diets to get himself back on track – A true inspiration indeed.