The Unbreakable and Record-Setting Cincinnati Finalists

When Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic met in the Cincinnati final on Sunday, they represented a unique event in tennis history: Neither one had been broken.  Four matches each, no breaks of serve.

That’s not just a Masters-level record, it’s a first for the ATP tour, at least since 1991, the time span for which point-level stats are available.    That’s over 1500 tournaments, including nearly 200 Masters events.

It’s very rare to even come close.  Of the 195 Masters tournaments for which data is available, only four pairs of finalists entered the title match with three or fewer breaks.  Djokovic leads the pack: When he met Rafael Nadal in the 2011 Miami final, Nadal had been broken once, Djokovic not at all.  When Djokovic and Federer met in the 2007 Montreal final, each player had only been broken once.  The Miami achievement is particularly notable because each player had won five pre-final matches, compared to only four each in Cincinnati and Montreal.

Federer set some records on his own, as well.  By holding his serve against Djokovic, he made it through an entire Masters tournament without suffering a break.  That’s the first time it has ever happened at this level.  Eight other times the winner has only been broken once–twice that winner was Federer, including Cincinnati two years ago.  Ten additional times, the winner was only broken twice–and Roger is responsible for three of those.

At lower level tournaments, it’s somewhat more common–the winner of a non-Masters event has made it through without losing serve a total of 17 times.  Surprise, surprise: Two of those are Federer, at Doha in 2005 and Halle in 2008.  Four other men have done it twice: Andy Roddick, Joachim Johanssen, Richard Krajicek, and Ivan Ljubicic.  Milos Raonic did it earlier this year in Chennai.

Federer set at least one more record last week, and it might be the most impressive of all.  He only faced three break points all week–the lowest known total at a Masters tournament.  The previous record was four, set by Andre Agassi at the 2002 Madrid Masters.  Fed’s total in Cinci was only the 10th ever in single digits–and Roger is now responsible for four of those top ten results.

At lower-level events, Fed’s mark has been bettered a couple of times.  At the 2007 Memphis tournament, Tommy Haas claimed the trophy without facing a single break point.   At San Jose this year, Raonic faced only two break points, though Tobias Kamke converted one of them.  Two other players–Andy Murray at 2009 Queen’s Club and Roddick at Lyon in 2005–got through an event facing only three break points.

No breaks, and record-settingly few break points. If hard courts are truly becoming slower, it seems that someone forgot to tell Roger.

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