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|Novak Djokovic of Serbia returns to Roger Federer of Switzerland during the final of the Cincinnati Masters. photo AFP|
The former world number one became the first man to win all nine of the ATP's elite Masters 1000 events since the ATP was formed in 1990.
Federer, a seven-time champion in Cincinnati, lost a final in the hardcourt US Open tuneup for the first time.
In addition, his streak of 100 straight unbroken service games in Cincy was ended by Djokovic in the seventh game of the first set.
The 37-year-old Swiss had been aiming for a 99th career trophy, but was unable to get over the line due in part to four double-faults at the most inopportune of times.
"Thanks for letting me win here once," Djokovic joked to Federer at the trophy presentation. "I didn't play my best tennis today, but I managed.
"It's been a roller-coaster week," he added after players dealt for days with lengthy rain interruptions.
Djokovic claimed the opening set in 37 minutes and came back from an early break in the second to overhaul his longtime rival as they played for the 46th time.
The Serb now leads Federer 24-22 and has won their last three encounters.
The pair had not played since the 2016 Australian Open semi-finals more than two and a half years ago.
Wimbledon champion Djokovic claimed his Masters record on his first match point and now heads to the US Open as a title favorite after several seasons of dismal form and an elbow injury which required surgical intervention.
"Congratulations to Novak," Federer said, "not just for today for his entire career.
"The rain made things tough this week, so it's great to see the sun today.
"This is one of my favorite events and I hope to be back next year."
Federer started the match with three aces in the opening game, then added a pair of love games for a 3-2 lead.
But it began to unravel as the Swiss double-faulted to yield a break point, dropping serve as Djokovic moved ahead 4-3.
Djokovic took advantage for a 5-3 lead and closed out the set after 37 minutes.
Federer broke for a 2-0 lead in the second set but gave the break back immediately as he double faulted to give Djokovic a break point which the Serb promptly converted.
Djokovic broke again to lead 4-3, and after Federer held to close the gap to 4-5 Djokovic ended the afternoon in the next game on his first match point.