CINCINNATI, Ohio– World number two Roger Federer won his second ATP Cincinnati Masters crown in a row on Sunday, outlasting American Mardy Fish 6-7 (5/7), 7-6 (7/1), 6-4 for his 63rd career title.
The Swiss superstar, who is bidding for a 17th Grand Slam crown when the US Open begins on August 30, matched Bjorn Borg for fifth on the all-time Open Era title list and captured his fourth Cincinnati crown after 2005, 2007 and 2009.
"I have been playing well the last couple of weeks and today was just another proof that I'm playing really well," Federer said.
Federer captured his first title since the Australian Open and served notice he will be difficult to defeat at the US Open, where he lost last year's final to Juan Martin del Potro, who will not defend his title because of an injury.
"It's nice knowing the hard work in the off-season after Wimbledon pays off right away," Federer said. "I've been committed to this sport for many years and when you do that and give yourself over and over again, you will break through by winning tournaments again.
"I was maybe playing a little bit too passive. Now I'm taking it to the opponents again. I'm hoping that that's the right game plan right now."
Federer used a steady serve and consistent back-line work to allow only one break chance for Fish.
"I was really consistent on my serve," Federer said. "I had the upper hand from the baseline. He had to start taking chances.
"This is how tennis used to be played coming up - big serves, some volleys. It was played on a couple points here and there. I hung tough and made him work hard and was able to come across the finish line faster."
Wildcard entrant Fish, who had won recent titles in Newport and Atlanta, fired 17 aces but failed in his bid to become the first unseeded champion in the event, the final major tuneup for the year's last Grand Slam tournament.
"I played well. He played well. It was a pretty high level for the most part," Fish said. "In two matches he has broken me only one time in five sets, so I have played really well against him the past couple of times."
Federer's victory kept Fish, 28, from reaching a career-high 16th in the rankings but the American will still rise considerably from 36th where he began the week.
"I feel great. I've done some things I've never done before," Fish said. "It was a great tournament. It's as well as I've played."
Fish netted a backhand on the first break-point chance of the third set to hand Federer a 5-4 lead and the Swiss third seed held serve for the victory, which came after two hours and 40 minutes when Fish sent a backhand wide.
Fish denied Federer on four break points in the first set without ever managing to get one against the Swiss star, but came through in the tie-breaker when it mattered most to claim the opening set.
Federer smacked a forehand winner for a 5-4 lead, but Fish answered with an overhead smash, achieved a set point when Federer netted a backhand and took the set after 67 minutes with a service winner.
"I played well the whole match. The first set was the one I really should have won and ended up losing," Federer said. "It was a close match, could have gone either way."
Fish managed a break point in the fifth game of the second set but sent a forehand beyond the baseline on the way to another tie-breaker.
"I had a tough moment staring at one set down and break point in the second set," Federer said. "You think you are playing a good match but you might lose 6 and 4."