MASON: Daniil Medvedev of Russia poses for photographers after defeating David Goffin of Belgium during the men’s final of the Western & Southern Open at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason. – AFP

CINCINNATI: Daniil Medvedev, coming off back-to-back ATP finals defeats, held off David Goffin 7-6 (7/3), 6-4 Sunday to win the ATP Cincinnati Masters. The ninth-seeded Russian finished with an ace after saving break points in the final game, lifting a first Masters 1000 trophy after settling for runner-up finishes to Nick Kyrgios in Washington and Rafael Nadal in Montreal last weekend.

“These have been the best three weeks of my life,” Medvedev said. “My mentality was the best, my serve was the best, my tennis has been really consistent. “I didn’t have one bad match, I hope to continue this way for next few weeks.” After his full-on post-Wimbledon schedule, the winner admitted: “I’m so exhausted, I almost can’t talk now.” He also revealed that he was starting to cramp in the final game, when he tossed his racquet in anger before saving break points.

“I think my Montreal final against Rafa was important,” he said of hanging on. “I was maybe able to use that experience that I had and David did not.” Medvedev, who only recently gained the ATP Top 10, now will find himself ranked fifth as a result of his three-week run of form. “I don’t check the rankings every two minutes, but I do look after I do well at a tournament,” he said. “If I had lost I’d be seventh, now I’m fifth.” Medvedev followed up his semi-final upset of defending champion Novak Djokovic as he controlled feisty Belgian Goffin to win an ATP leading 31st hardcourt match.

He has the most match wins on any surface this year with 43. Spanish superstar Nadal, who did not play this week — is second with 41, followed by Roger Federer on 39. Medvedev stamped himself a contender for the US Open, the final Grand Slam of the season that starts in Flushing Meadows in a week. Goffin was competing in his second final of 2019 after losing to Federer in Halle. “Congratulations to your team,” he told Medvedev, “Once again, an unbelievable week for you, fantastic. “I think you are ready for New York.”

Medvedev powered to a 4-1 lead in the opening set but had to win it in a tiebreaker as Goffin, coached by 2002 Australian open winner Thomas Johansson, fought back. But Medvedev’s break in the opening game of the second set was all he needed as he avenged a loss to Goffin at Wimbledon this year. Earlier, Madison Keys came from a break down in both sets to defeat Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-5, 7-6 (7/5) on Sunday to win the WTA Cincinnati crown. The 2017 US Open finalist notched her fifth career title and second this season after a win in Charleston in April.

She’ll return to the top 10 in the world rankings with the US Open a week away. Kuznetsova, a two-time Grand Slam champion working her way back up the rankings after a series of injuries, was broken back in the 10th game of each set by 16th-seeded Keys — who fired 13 aces on the way to victory. “If my team had told me a week ago that I would be here, I would have laughed in their face,” admitted Keys, who had endured two opening-match defeats since a second-round exit at Wimbledon. Keys belted a total of 43 winners with 33 unforced errors and broke Kuznetsova three times.

Kuznetsova was the fourth Grand Slam winner Keys beat during the week, a string that included Spain’s Garbine Muguruza, reigning Wimbledon champion Simona Halep and Venus Williams. “It was a tough draw from the very start,” Keys said. “I definitely think I played some of my best tennis consistently this week. I’m obviously really happy and really proud of myself,” she added, while stressing she won’t let the performance put more pressure on her at the US Open. “It’s definitely more of a building block,” she said.

Despite leading both sets, Kuznetsova never had a set point in either, Keys winning the final four games of the first set before dropping her serve in the third game of the second. Keys broke Kuznetsova to level at 5-all and ran out the winner in the ensuing tiebreaker as the Russian sent a service return long on Keys’s second match point. “I just really focused in on obviously really important games and was able to make her play a lot of balls,” Keys said. “I think when I was doing a good job at moving forward and kind of trying to neutralize some of her deep, heavy, spinny shots, I was able to get out in front in the point and play a little bit more offense.”

Former world number two Kuznetsova, who received a wildcard into the draw, beat top seed Ashleigh Barty, world number three Ashleigh Barty and 2017 US Open champion Sloane Stephens on her way to the final. “I had a lot of matches where they could have gone either way, including this one,” said Kuznetsova, who will jump from 118th to 31st in the rankings and said she’d had a “great week.”

“I had chances but she hit the ball well and was more aggressive. I’m happy with how I played, I’m feeling great,” she said. “It could give me more motivation in the future,” Kuznetsova added. “I just want to rest and get ready for the Open.” – AFP