Novak Djokovic made history by beating Roger Federer to win in Cincinatti. Ralph Ellis says it confirms the Serb is back to his best...
"Wimbledon champion Djokovic is now the [3.8] favourite to make the US Open his 14th career Grand Slam title and with his fitness, stamina and desire all restored it is hard to see who stops him."
It was only a little clip on YouTube, and on a busy sporting weekend one that you might easily have missed. Novak Djokovic, on Friday night, smashing a racket on his way to a three-set quarter-final win over Milos Raonic.
Afterwards he said all the right things, about how he wasn't proud of it, about how he knew he should be a role model to kids, about how he should have more control over his temper.
But as you contemplate next week's US Open it was probably a more significant moment than his ultimate two-set victory over Roger Federer in the Western and Southern Open in Cincinatti final.
That had history. It made him the first in the Open era to have won all nine ATP Masters events as well as the four Grand Slams, a quite stunning achievement.
But in the context of how Djokovic, at the age of 31, has recaptured his drive and desire to win, the beaten up racket told you far more than a beaten-up Federer.
A long road back
Wimbledon champion Djokovic is now the [3.8] favourite to make the US Open his 14th career Grand Slam title and with his fitness, stamina and desire all restored it is hard to see who stops him.
It has been a long road back. It is little more than two years ago that he'd won in Paris to hold all four Grand Slams at the same time and I can remember listening to the radio with somebody working out how long it would take him to eclipse the record then held by Federer on 17.
In the event Djokovic's world fell apart with injury issues and rumours of troubles away from the court.
And even when earlier this year he seemed to be getting his focus back, he then lost his way again in the build-up to France and was never in contention. It seemed he'd never get a 13th, much less catch Federer who was now cruising into the distance in the record books.
But it was the return to working with long-time coach Marin Vajda that settled his mind to make him a Wimbledon winner and the pair have clicked effortlessly into gear since.
He's got the force back again
Vajda seems to understand that Djokovic sometimes needs to get angry, to blame the world when things are going wrong, and, yes, to smash the occasional racket.
It's the force that has always driven him from being astonishingly good to being one of the tennis gods, and he's got it back again.
Of the other contenders heading for Flushing Meadows the Cincinatti result will have been a crushing psychological defeat to Federer [6.6] while Rafael Nadal [4.9] will also be licking his wounds from losing that epic semi-final at Wimbledon.
And for all I've kept thinking Alexander Zverev [14.0] was close to a breakthrough this season, when push comes to shove the young German has always come up short.
Djokovic has always been at his best on hard courts and it's amazing he's only got two US Open titles to his name compared to his six from Australia. This year gives him a serious chance to redress a bit of that balance.