Aces and Faults recaps the week in tennis. Last week, Roger Federer and Serena Williams were among the winners at the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati.
Roger Federer: The six-time champion can't explain why he feels so at home in Mason, but the tournament has always been good to him -- it's his most successful ATP Masters 1000. He finally snapped his two-year drought by winning his third and biggest title of the season, defeating David Ferrer in three sets in the final.
His 9-1 run through the U.S. Open Series sets him up perfectly for the U.S. Open, where he'll be the No. 2 seed and have a shot at taking the No. 2 ranking from Rafael Nadal if he can win the whole thing (Nadal withdrew from the U.S. Open on Monday). All of this comes just a few weeks after Federer's 33rd birthday.
Serena Williams: While Federer won his sixth Cincinnati title, Serena captured her first. She put forward a dominant serving display in the final, beating Ana Ivanovic 6-4, 6-1. Her serve looked the best it's been all year, and Ivanovic was left shaking her head as she walked between return positions, barely able to get the ball back in play.
Serena admitted she needed this match for her confidence because even though she won the Bank of the West Classic in Stanford, she wasn't playing her best tennis there. After winning Cincinnati, Serena believes she's playing at a level that's good enough to defend her title at the U.S. Open.
Bob and Mike Bryan: The Bryans avenged their Wimbledon loss to Jack Sock and Vasek Pospisil, who were on a 14-match win streak, routing the youngsters 6-3, 6-2 in the final to win their 99th career title and fifth at the Western & Southern Open. They'll go for the century mark at the U.S. Open.
Ana Ivanovic: Ivanovic wasn't even sure she could play Cincinnati after being hampered by long-standing pinched nerve that seems to flare up at the most inopportune times. "Thank God for the Volatarens," she said during her run to her biggest final since the 2009 BNP Paribas Open. She was no match for Serena in the final, but her win over Maria Sharapova in the semifinals may have been the match of the tournament. Ivanovic went from being 6-2, 5-2 up and serving for the match to being down break points late in the third set. She would save two match points and beat Sharapova 6-2, 5-7, 7-5. It was the weirdest and most gripping match I've watched in long time -- and one Ivanovic completely chokes away a year ago.
David Ferrer: Solid hard court summer for Ferrer, who backed up his Toronto quarterfinal with his first ATP Masters 1000 final of the season. He'll get some protection in the draw at the U.S. Open, getting the No. 4 seed after Nadal's withdrawal.
Caroline Wozniacki: U.S. Open dark horse? For the second straight week Wozniacki pushed Serena to three sets only to narrowly lose. Plus she got her first top ten wins in a year, beating Angelique Kerber and Agnieszka Radwanska. It's all rounding into form for Wozniacki to make a deep run at the Open.
Tommy Robredo: He handled Novak Djokovic in straight sets in the third round, beating the No. 1 rank 7-6 (6), 7-5 to make the quarterfinals, where he lost to Ferrer in three sets. He'll be a top 16 seed in New York, where he ousted Federer last year.
Simona Halep: In her first summer hard court event, Halep played at a very good level. In terms of sheer quality, her quarterfinal against Sharapova was the best match of the tournament. Not too many people got to see the first set -- ESPN was airing Federer-Murray instead -- but it was a masterclass in movement and aggressive counterpunching from Halep. Just like in the French Open final, Sharapova was eventually able to reel her back in and a tough umpiring decision at 4-all in the third set left Halep angry and shaken. She lost 3-6, 6-4, 6-4, but considering that was just her third hard-court match of the summer, she's in good shape for New York.
Sam Stosur: It will go down as a straight-set loss, but Stosur has not served as well or hit the ball as clean as she did against Serena in her 7-6 (7), 7-6 (7) second round loss.
Gael Monfils: Monfils played to win in his third round match against Federer. He lost 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 but the attitude and intensity was good to see. More of that please.
Maria Sharapova: A lot of things can happen in the heat of competition. But mocking an opponent's medical timeout when they needed to get their blood pressure taken is probably crossing the line, especially when you're just mad you double-faulted a break away.
Petra Kvitova and Novak Djokovic: Current Wimbledon champions' readings: ice cold. Kvitova lost in her opening match to Elina Svitolina, and Djokovic has won just two matches in the last two weeks.
Andy Murray: The Brit doesn't seem to have any idea why he keeps suffering these mid-match inconsistencies. But with a 4-0 double-break lead on Federer in the second set of their quarterfinal, he proceeded to play some shockingly bad tennis to lose in straight sets.
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In case you missed it
• On the whole, the men's tournament was lacking in exciting matches this week, though the fantastic three-set match between Murray and John Isner may have put a monopoly on all the quality. Queue it up for a re-watch if you have the time. It's as good a match as you'll ever see Isner play.
• If Sloane Stephens plays the way she has been over the last two weeks at the U.S. Open, a second-week run is in the cards. New coach Thomas Hogstedt seems to have been able to convince her to be aggressive. It's great to see.
• The men's doubles final between The Bryans and Sock/Pospisil didn't live up to the hype, but I got a lot of emails and tweets from fans complaining that it wasn't shown anywhere. Doubles coverage continues to be lacking and there is a very vocal fanbase that is demanding more. Does it make financial sense to produce the matches and air them for, what is at this point, a small but dedicated following? Probably not. Should the ATP do it anyway? Yes. You have the product, why not push it and create the demand?
• I'm never shy when it comes to complaining about court assignments so I spent a good amount of time this week going through every day's order of play and asking the people in the know to explain any eye-brow raising decisions on court placements. I came away from it with a far more sympathetic eye towards the complex decision that have to be made to put that complex document together. Here's the upshot: TV drives everything, always check to see if a player is also scheduled for doubles that day (that helps explain why Venus vs. Safarova had to get on early), and players need suitable rest before taking the court the next day. Oh, and no one ever wants the second night session slot and never rule out the fact that players might actually want the smaller court if that means a better time slot.
• Is the bathroom break the new time-between-points rule? There were more than a handful of suspiciously timed bathroom breaks this week.