CINCINNATI • In an era largely dominated by Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, it has not been easy to carve out new entries in the record books of men's tennis.
But a proud Novak Djokovic found a way to set himself apart on Sunday, winning the Cincinnati Open for the first time and becoming the first man to triumph in singles at all nine Masters events on the ATP Tour.
"Definitely one of the most special moments in my career," he said after beating Federer 6-4, 6-4, in the final. "Making history in the sport that I truly love is a great privilege and honour, and something that I'll be very proud of for the rest of my life."
Djokovic shares the distinction of having won all four Grand Slams with Federer and Nadal, but sweeping the nine Masters events is a point of differentiation.
Federer has won seven of the nine, lacking Monte Carlo and Rome, while Nadal is missing Miami, Shanghai and Paris.
Djokovic's tally of Masters titles has stood at eight since 2013, when he won in Monte Carlo. He had made the final five times in Cincinnati, but lost twice to Andy Murray and three times to Federer.
"I kept on coming here, and I felt more pressure every time," said the Serb, this year's Wimbledon champion. "It's been a rollercoaster ride in my career with injury... having a surgery (elbow) earlier this year. This seems a bit unreal to be winning Wimbledon and obviously Cincinnati for the first time."
He and Federer have battled it out across every surface over the years - Sunday was their 46th professional meeting - but they had not faced each other since the 2016 Australian Open.
Federer has been more successful at this Masters event than at any other, winning seven times in Cincinnati. But, on Sunday, his consistency was lacking and he could not mount a steady challenge on Djokovic's serve, generating only one break point in the match.
While acknowledging that he had struggled, the Swiss directed the focus towards Djokovic's win.
"I think that's what the headline should be about," he said.
"This is an amazing accomplishment, and I hope he's extremely proud not just today but his whole career to get to this point."
In the women's final, Kiki Bertens won the biggest title of her career, beating top-ranked Simona Halep, 2-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-2.
Before this summer, Bertens had been almost exclusively a clay-court specialist who struggled on grass and hard courts, winning all five of her career titles on clay.
This summer, she has gone 8-0 against top-10 opponents on grass and hard courts, surfaces on which she had previously gone 0-11.
"Winning on a surface that you didn't really know coming into this year that it was possible - yeah, that's a great feeling," she said.