Seven-time Cincinnati Masters champion Roger Federer will continue his quest for a record eighth crown when he takes on Argentina’s Leonardo Mayer in the third round. Federer’s Wimbledon campaign ended in disappointment when the big-serving South African Kevin Anderson felled him in five in the quarterfinals and he will be eager to bounce back in Ohio. But Mayer has given him problems in the past and is a veteran of some quality. Who will come out on top?
Federer and Mayer have met twice so far and it is the Swiss star that has walked away with the victory on both occasions. Their first meeting, a 2014 battle in the second round in Shanghai, was a thriller. Mayer came to within an inch of victory, clipping the top of the net up match point and wasted a further four chances to claim the win before Federer prevailed 7-5 3-6 7-6. He was more comfortable when their rivalry was renewed a year later in New York, dispatching Mayer 6-1 6-2 6-2.
Path to the third round
Federer elected to skip the Canadian Open in Toronto, where he reached the final last year (lost to Zverev), in order to rest after his Wimbledon exertions. That saw him began his Cincinnati Masters against Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk, who is enjoying the best season his career and won the title in Metz last year. He gave a good account of himself against Federer, but ultimately the Swiss had too much and won through 6-4 6-4.
Mayer’s opening match in Cincinnati pitted him against American qualifier Michael Mmoh, who had beaten Mirza Basic and Tim Smyczek to reach the main draw in Ohio. But Mayer proved too strong for the 20-year-old, despite a mid-match loss of focus, and advanced a 6-4 1-6 6-4 winner to face 16th seed Lucas Pouille in the second round. The Frenchman is struggling for form and, despite beating a laboured Andy Murray in the first round, fell to Mayer in straight sets 6-7 4-6.
How do they match up?
Federer on a fast hard court presents a match up nightmare for a player like Mayer, who is most comfortable trading from the baseline on a clay court. The Swiss has the quality to force the issue, both by hitting through opponents from the back of the court and by moving into the forecourt, where his excellent hands at the net and quick reflexes make him difficult to pass. In short, this match is certain to bring Mayer out of his comfort zone.
His best strategy will surely be to play as aggressively as he can from the outset. He has plenty of power and if he can combine it with accuracy he will have a chance of hitting through Federer. He would do well to target the Swiss’ forehand with Federer uncomfortable at dealing with pace into that wing. Mayer will also need to return well and take such chances as appear. They will be few and far between with Federer amongst the best servers in the game, but some may arise.
It is difficult to foresee any outcome in this one other than a Federer victory. The Swiss has long enjoyed playing on the hard courts of the Lindner Family Tennis Center and it is easy to see why. They favour the brand of attacking tennis that Federer has long represented, whilst those accustomed to slower courts such as Mayer struggle. That does not bode well for the Argentine ahead of this one. Federer in straight sets.