In his first match of the American summer hard court season, world #2 Roger Federer will begin his quest for an eighth Cincinnati Masters crown against Germany’s Peter Gojowczyk. Federer has long enjoyed playing in Ohio and it has proven the most successful Masters tournament of his career, though a back injury forced his withdrawal last year. Gojowczyk, meanwhile, has continued his late career surge but he has never claimed a top five win. Who will come out on top?
This will be the first meeting between Federer and Gojowczyk on Tour. In terms of experience, however, it is unsurprisingly the Swiss who has a significant advantage. He has a career record of 1161-254 and that has fired him to 98 titles, including 20 Grand Slams and 27 Masters 1000s. Gojowczyk has amassed rather more modest numbers so far in his career. He has claimed just one title and has a career record of 43-43.
Path to the second round
Federer, who enjoyed a first-round bye, has not taken to the court since losing an instant classic to Kevin Anderson in the quarterfinals at Wimbledon. He looked to be cruising to victory when he led 6-2 7-6 5-4 and held a match point. But Anderson saved it and turned the match around with some huge hitting and excellent serving. After drawing level, neither man gave an inch in the decider until as Federer began to tire, Anderson pounced to seal a 2-6 6-7 7-5 6-4 13-11 win.
The unseeded Gojowczyk arrived in Ohio after a disappointing loss to Fernando Verdasco in which he managed just four games in the first round in Toronto. He looked to be in trouble again in the early going against Joao Sousa in his opening round in Cincinnati as the Portuguese took the opening set 6-2. But Sousa, who has struggled badly since winning in Estoril, could not sustain his effort and Gojowczyk turned the match around to win 2-6 6-4 7-5.
How do they match up?
Federer is unquestionably the greatest attacking player of his generation. He can dismantle opponents with his powerful and accurate groundstrokes from the back of the court, with his forehand amongst the best in the game. But he also has the quality to move forward, with his touch in the forecourt bettered by few on the Tour. His serve, whilst not the most powerful, is deadly accurate and has been the crucial shot for Federer in maintaining his late-career success.
Gojowczyk cannot match Federer’s variety, nor is he anything like as effective when stepping to the line. But he is an exceedingly clean ball-striker and can hit winners from both his forehand and backhand side. He does hit with less topspin than most players on the Tour, which serves him well in that it sends the ball skidding through the court, but leaves him less margin for error than he would otherwise have. Against Federer, who will give him little time, that could be costly.
Federer will surely still be smarting from his defeat at the hands of Anderson at Wimbledon, and it may well be Gojowczyk who pays the price. Federer should have far too much for the German in Cincinnati, where the fast courts suit his attacking style of play and he is sure, as ever, to receive the lion’s share of the support from the crowd. Indeed, if Gojowczyk doesn’t get off to a good start it could be something of a mauling. Federer in straight sets.