August 19, 2007: The day Roger Federer claimed his 50th ATP title

Every day, Tennis Majors takes you back in time to relive a tennis event which happened on this specific day. On this day in 2007 Roger Federer defeated James Blake in the Cincinnati final to achieve a career milestone

19 August 2021
Roger Federer

What happened exactly on that day?

On this day, August 19 in 2007, Roger Federer defeated James Blake (6-1, 6-4) in the final of the Cincinnati Masters to claim his 50th title on the tour. AT the age of 26, the Swiss became only the ninth player in the Open Era to win at least 50 titles. It was Federer’s fifth title of the year and the 39th trophy clinched by the Swiss since he had become world No 1, three and half years earlier. During that period, the Swiss had accumulated 10 Grand Slam crowns. These jaw-dropping numbers demonstrated how strong Federer’s hold on the tour was in those peak years. 

The players: Roger Federer and James Blake

  • Roger Federer: The leading man on the ATP Tour

Roger Federer, the Swiss maestro, had been the ATP’s No 1 without a break since February 2, 2004. The Swiss had already captured 11 Grand Slams: the Australian Open (2004, 2006, 2007), Wimbledon (2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007) and the US Open (2004, 2005, 2006). In 2006, his best season, the Basel native claimed 12 titles including three Grand Slams, the Masters Cup and four Masters Series. He compiled a record of 92 wins against only 5 losses, four of those coming against his only serious rival at the time, Rafael Nadal. The Spaniard was the main reason Federer hadn’t won the French Open yet:  Federer was trumped by Nadal in the semi-final in 2005 (6-3, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3) and in the final in 2006 (1-6, 6-1, 6-4, 7-6) and 2007 (6-3, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4).

Roger Federer

Federer had started 2007 by winning the Australian Open without dropping a set, beating Fernando Gonzales for the title (7-6, 6-4, 6-4). He then had a peculiar Indian Wells/Miami run where he lost twice against the same player, Argentine Guillermo Canas, who was coming back on the tour after being suspended for using a banned substance. 

Back in form in spring, Federer triumphed in Hamburg defeating his Spanish nemesis on clay for the first time in the final (2-6, 6-2, 6-0), but at the French Open, Nadal beat him again in the final. The Swiss returned the favor against the left-hander at Wimbledon, where he prevailed in the final after a five-set battle (7-6, 4-6, 7-6, 2-6, 6-2).

  • James Blake: from Harvard to the world’s top 10

James Blake was born in 1979. After playing two years of college tennis for Harvard, he decided to turn professional in 1999. Blake played a very aggressive game, forged from flat groundstrokes and an explosive forehand.  In 2002, after reaching his first tour finals in Memphis (lost to Andy Roddick, 6-4, 3-6, 7-5) and in Newport (lost to Taylor Dent, 6-1, 4-6, 6-4), Blake claimed his first ATP title in Washington, where he beat Paradorn Srichapan in the final (1-6, 7-6, 6-4). In 2003, Blake established himself as a solid top 30 player, but he went through a hard year in 2004, fracturing a vertebra in Rome, before facing the death of his father in July and developing shingles, which temporarily paralyzed half his face and blurred his vision. As a consequence, his ranking dropped as low as No 210 in April 2005. 

James Blake
James Blake

A few months later, entering the US Open draw thanks to a wild card, Blake reached the quarter-finals, where he was defeated by Andre Agassi after an epic five-set thriller (3-6, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3, 7-6).

Blake’s peak year came in 2006. That year, he notched his best-ever ranking of world No 4 after claiming five titles, reaching the US Open quarter-finals again (lost to Roger Federer, 7-6, 6-0, 6-7, 6-4), and finishing runner-up at the Masters Cup (defeated again by Federer, 6-0, 6-3, 6-4). In 2007, his best results were a fourth round at the Australian Open (lost to Fernando Gonzales, 7-5, 6-4, 7-6) and a title claimed in Sydney (defeating Carlos Moya in the final, 6-3, 5-7, 6-1). 

The place: The Lindner Family Tennis Center, Cincinnati

The Lindner Family Tennis Center, in Cincinnati, Ohio, had been holding a prestigious men’s event continuously since 1899. In 1981, the tournament became a part of the prestigious Grand Prix and many great players came here to prepare for the US Open. Back then, the Cincinnati Open had been won by champions such as John McEnroe (1981), Ivan Lendl (1982), and Mats Wilander (1983, 1984, 1986, 1988) among others.

In 1990, with the establishment of the ATP Tour as the only professional circuit, Cincinnati entered the Super 9 category (now known as Masters 1000), and was won by several top-ranked players including Stefan Edberg (1990), Pete Sampras (1992, 1997, 1999), Andre Agassi (1995, 1996, 2004), Andy Roddick (2003, 2006) and Roger Federer (2005).

The facts: Federer maintains his perfect record against Blake

In August 2007, Roger Federer was the undisputed world No 1 and had just conquered his 5th consecutive crown at Wimbledon, equaling Bjorn Borg’s record, but in Montreal, he was edged in the final by a rising Serbian star by the name of Novak Djokovic (7-6, 2-6, 7-6). In Cincinnati, after overcoming a scare from Lleyton Hewitt in the semi-final (6-3, 6-7, 7-6), Federer was facing Blake in the final, gunning for title No 50.

Roger Federer 2007

Although he had never beaten the Swiss in six previous encounters, Blake believed in his chances after he defeated Nikolay Davydenko in the semi-final (6-4, 6-2): “Roger has clearly been the best player in the world for the last few years, but when I get into a final I know I’m playing great tennis, so I have a chance.”   

Federer started the match with two aces, and as early as the second game he broke both Blake’s serve and confidence. Although Blake obtained three break points at 3-1, Federer remained solid and sealed the first set 6-1. The American did not have another opportunity to take the Swiss’ serve until the end of the second set when he was already down a break at 4-3. Federer saved those break points and two games later, he served the last of his nine aces on championship point to seal the victory, 6-1, 6-4, and lift title No 50.

“It’s not a goal I set for myself in my career, but it’s definitely a nice number to get to, especially in terms of titles,” Federer said, according to espn.com. “It’s really a lot, you know, so it’s great.”

The world No 1 later confessed keeping his trophies in a special room, “It’s grown to about office size,” he said. “They’re kept behind glass, so you don’t have to dust them off all the time.”

What happened next? Blake beats Federer in 2008

Blake would eventually beat Roger Federer, though only once in 11encounters. The American would prevail 6-4, 7-6 in the quarter-finals of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.

Shortly after the Cincinnati final, Federer would add a 12th Grand Slam title to his collection, by triumphing at the US Open where he beat Djokovic in the final (7-6, 7-6, 6-4). In total, the Swiss would claim eight titles in 2007. 14 years later, in 2021, Federer still ranks in the top 10 at the age of 40, holding an amazing 103 titles on the tour, including 20 Grand Slams, six Masters Cups and 28 Masters 1000. The Swiss recently announced that he would undergo another surgery on this knee but added that he would do his best to come back on the tour next season.

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