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Rogers Cup ATP
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Cincinnati Women's Open Open WTA
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By Sean Rudolph
© Natasha Peterson/Corleve

(August 14, 2010) The Rogers Cup is Andy's championship again. Andy Murray adopted an assertive mind set to successfully defend the Rogers Cup championship with a 7-5, 7-5 victory over Roger Federer in today's final featuring several momentum swings and stoppages due to rain at the Rexall Centre in Toronto.

The 23-year-old Murray, who led the ATP Tour with six titles in 2009, claimed his first championship since he beat Mikhail Youzhny to win Valencia 10 months ago.

The fourth-ranked Murray is the first man to win back-to-back titles in Canada since Andre Agassi in 1994-95.

Sweeping World No. 1 Rafael Nadal and Federer in successive matches, Murray solidified his status as a leading contender for the US Open, which starts on August 30th.  Murray is the fifth different player to beat Nadal and Federer in the same tournament. Nikolay Davydenko is the last player to accomplish the feat in January in Doha and Juan Martin del Potro, the man Murray beat 6-7, 7-6, 6-1 in the 2009 Rogers Cup final, did it in beating Nadal and Federer back-to-back in winning the 2009 US Open.

"Winning a tournament is always great, but it's the first time I beat Roger and Rafa in the same tournament, which is probably the most pleasing thing, and then didn't drop a set against either of them," Murray said. "So it's good for the confidence for the next few weeks."

It was Federer's first tournament since he lost to Tomas Berdych in last month's Wimbledon quarterfinals and his first event playing with coach Paul Annacone, Pete Sampras' former coach, who is working with Federer on a trial basis. Annacone was in the building today, but not sitting in the player box next to Federer's wife Mirka. Annacone, who is still under contract to the LTA, did not sit in the box out of respect for his LTA pact, ESPN's Darren Cahill reported.

Federer did not get back to his hotel until after midnight after
defusing an explosive Novak Djokovic, 6-1, 3-6, 7-5 in Saturday night's semifinal and looked slightly sluggish at the outset today. But Federer, who fought back from a 2-5 third-set deficit in his 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(5), quarterfinal decision over Berdych in Friday night's quarterfinal, competed with the emotional intensity he sometimes lacked at Wimbledon.

The stops and starts due to rain delays made it difficult for Federer to sustain a rhythm.

"It was just a really hard match to go through at the very end," said Federer, who will leap frog Djokovic to assume the No. 2 ranking when the new ATP Tour rankings are released tomorrow. "It was played on a couple points here and there, and it didn't even feel like the end of the match. Just all of a sudden it was all over. So it was just kind of a touch disappointing, obviously. But I thought he played well."

In a tactical transformation, Murray effectively redefined his game in playing with a sharper edge and more authoritative swings than he's shown in past finals.

When it mattered most, the counter-puncher turned his shoulders and swung for the knockout blow. Winless in three prior finals against Federer, Murray found himself down break point serving for the match at 6-5.

The Murray of old might have relied on his legs to bob-and-weave his way through the point, playing duck-and-cover to try to coax errors from his opponent.

Not anymore.

Reaching up and out into the court, the 6-foot-3 Murray slammed a 137 mph ace out wide that left Federer lunging at air.

Adrenaline was red-lining as Murray followed with his fastest serve of the match
— a 140 mph missile down the middle — for his first championship point. Intoxicated by the ease of those blows, Murray tried to finish with a flourish, but cringed when he netted a backhand drop shot.

Two points later, Murray closed his first win over Federer in a final in two hours, four minutes then trotted into the stands to embrace his mom, and unofficial coach, Judy Murray.

"He was aggressive. He was taking the ball early," Federer said. "He wasn't giving me much, and he clutch served at the very end when he had to, and he deserved the victory."

Murray dumped former coach Miles Maclagan after Wimbledon, saying he wanted to learn to play more aggressive tennis. He played with ambition when it mattered most today.

"I tried to stay aggressive and keep the ball deep," Murray said. "(I) managed to come through. It's obviously great beating Roger in the final. He's got an unbelievable record."

The streaking Scot has won 13 of his last 15 matches, reaching the Wimbledon semifinals, the Los Angeles final and winning Toronto in that span.

In a three-match span in which he won six straight sets, Murray surprised three of the game's best ball-strikers and tacticians — David Nalbandian, Nadal and Federer —  by imposing an assertive baseline game, exploring the corners of the court and accelerating through his forehand, the shot he sometimes pushes under pressure.

In convincing succession Murray snapped Nalbandian's career-best 11 match winning streak in the quarterfinals, handed Wimbledon winner Nadal just his second loss in his last 36 matches and snapped a three-game slide vs. Federer in beating the Swiss stylist for the first time in four finals to take a 7-5 lead in their head-to-head series.

Murray had more wins in the rivalry, but Federer had always won the ones that mattered — until today. Nadal, whose 18 Masters shields is the most in ATP history, and Federer, have combined to claim 34 Masters Series titles. Murray joined Novak Djokovic and Andy Roddick in capturing his fifth career Masters Series shield in raising his record to 5-1 in Masters' finals.

"Just felt pretty calm on the court all week, and that's if you can put sort of the emotions and how you're feeling into I guess the way you're playing rather than sort of showing it after every point, sort of saving up and putting into the points and the rallies," Murray said. "I felt like it worked well."

The challenge for Murray is transferring the ambition and aggression he displayed today into a Grand Slam final. He played sometimes tight, tentative tennis in losing to Federer in both the 2008 US Open final and the Australian Open final on January 31st.

Can Murray take control of the center of the court and dictate play on Arthur Ashe Stadium court, the fastest Grand Slam surface, as he did in Toronto? Or will he revert back to the chase and little pace play he showed in his timid loss to Marin Cilic at the 2009 US Open?

"I believe I’m good enough to do it, but it’s a very difficult thing to do. It’s a tough era," Murray said. "But that makes it something exciting and challenging and if I can do it, it will be a much a greater achievement."

The match was a rematch of the Australian Open final in January, which Federer won, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6(11), to capture his 16th career Grand Slam singles title.

While Murray played tentative tennis in Melbourne, he opened it up at the outset in Toronto in hammering shots at the Federer backhand to break twice in the first three games for a 3-0 lead.

Federer drilled a backhand down the line to earn triple break point, swooped in and smacked an overhead to break at love for 1-3.

Murray extended the lead to 5-3 and when a weary Federer did not get his feet set in spinning a slice backhand into net, Murray was two points from the set at 0-30. Federer rallied to hold for 4-5 and then dug in.

Serving for the first set at 30-all, the 6-foot-3 Scot used every inch of his expansive reach to flip a full-stretch forehand volley winner for set point. Defending his backhand with a series of backhands down the middle, Federer earned double break point when Murray tripped a backhand off the tape wide. Murray knocked a double fault off the top of the tape as Federer broke for 5-5.

At that point, a revived Federer looked intent on reasserting his final authority, but the third seed played a sloppy 11th game.

Federer was beat trying to serve and volley, double faulted and netted a forehand to fall behind triple break point. Federer saved the first break point with a serve down the middle, buzzed a backhand down the line to save the second and erased the third to draw even at deuce.

Drop-shotting Murray, one of the fastest men and best movers in the game, is not an easy proposition. Federer tried it, but Murray ran it down and responded with a lob that sent Federer scurrying back to the baseline. His back to the net, Federer caught up to the lob and spun into a forehand but the shot sailed slightly long giving Murray  another break point. Hooking a forehand wide, Federer dropped serve to fall behind 5-6.

"Fight!" a fired-up Murray yelled to his supporters.

Coming to net behind a deep crosscourt backhand, Murray guided a forehand volley winner earning two set points. A defensive Federer sent a slice backhand long as Murray closed out a first set that featured five service breaks.

"It was one of the best weeks I've had," Murray said. "It was just kind of expressing myself with the way I was playing. I played pretty free flowing tennis and didn't get too nervous."

Since his Australian Open triumph, Federer has lost three straight finals and will try to end that trend in Cincinnati next week as he aims to defend his Western & Southern Financial Group Masters.

"I'm planning everything for Cincy now, defending champion over there," Federer said. "I played some awesome tennis there last year, beat Murray and Djokovic along the way, so that was a great tournament for me. So I have some work to do over there."


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