The U.S. Open now has a clear men’s favorite — Novak Djokovic.

With Sunday’s 6-4, 6-4 straight-set dismantling of previously red-hot Roger Federer in the finals of Cincinnati’s Western & Southern Open, Djokovic soars into Flushing Meadows as the unlikely one to beat when the U.S. Open begins next Monday. Nobody could’ve imagined that prior to Wimbledon.

In taking out Federer, Djokovic also made history, becoming the first player to win what is dubbed the career “Golden Masters.’’ That honor is winning all nine ATP Masters events and the four Grand Slams. Djokovic had never managed to win in Cincinnati, which is the last Open tune-up for the top players.

Djokovic, ranked No. 10, is expected to move up to No. 6 entering the Open.

“This seems to be a bit unreal, to be honest, to be back at this level,” Djokovic said.

Tennis Channel’s Justin Gimelstob sees Djokovic raising the Open trophy again in September.

“He’s definitely, undoubtedly the favorite now going into the Open,’’ Gimelstob told The Post. “He’s back. The way he looked today against Roger, his movement, speed, consistency, depth of shot, how solid and confident he was, the rhythm on his serve. He’s been the best hardcourt player of this generation and the five sets will help him. He’s fit and hungry.”

Roger Federer reacts during the Western and Southern Open.Getty Images

Djokovic, who missed last year’s Open with elbow soreness, stumbled through a horrendous year after flaming out at the Australian Open, barely able to serve correctly. He underwent elbow surgery in January, returned a mess in March at Indian Wells, losing to a qualifier.

It wasn’t until the Wimbledon tune-ups when Djokovic started to show his typical top-flight form. He captured Wimbledon for his 13th Slam title and now has the edge coming into Queens. After all, Federer, 37, hasn’t won the Open since 2008.

“I’m not the favorite,” Federer said afterward. “They are – Rafa [Nadal] and Novak, in my opinion. I’m happy my level is there. I just got to come up with a lot of energy and hopefullyI also have a chance after 10 years to do something special again at the U.S. Open.”

The first three Slams have been captured by three separate players — Federer taking the Australian, Nadal the French Open and Djokovic Wimbledon. The Open winner could claim the “player of the year” crown. Nadal, defending Open champion, sat out Cincy after winning the Open tune-up in Toronto.

On Sunday, Djokovic was cracking from the backcourt, overpowering Federer, who had gone 46 straight games without losing his serve entering the finals. It was their first meeting in 31 months.

“When they asked me in Indian Wells and Miami to judge Novak, I was, like, ‘It’s not real Novak,’ then,’’ Federer said. “He was just coming back, and he came back too soon. That one wasn’t quite the 100 percent Novak we know. It looks like he hasn’t missed any tennis at all over the last few years.’’

It’s a rare occurrence, but the Ohio crowd of 11,000 pulled for Djokovic, chanting his name in the final games.

“It’s a very special moment to stand here and hold this trophy for the first time in Cincinnati,” Djokovic said during the ceremony as the crowd continued its chant.

Djokovic had lost five times in the Cincy finals, three to Federer.

“Thank you for letting me win once in Cincinnati,” he told Federer during the trophy presentation.

Now they head to New York, perhaps to meet again, with Sunday possibly a preview of the Open finals.


In the women’s finals, No. 17-ranked Kiki Bertens upset world No. 1 Simona Halep 2-6, 7-6, 6-2. Bertens of the Netherlands will be a factor in Flushing, though all eyes will be on Serena Williams in her first U.S. Open as a mother. Williams hardly goes in with momentum. She lost in the second round at Cincinnati after dropping out of Montreal. And that came after her worst-ever drubbing, a 6-1, 6-0 loss to Johanna Konta in San Jose, Calif. three weeks ago.

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