WASHINGTON, October 15, 2017 (by Michael Dickens)
On Sunday afternoon, Roger Federer delivered a master class with Rafael Nadal as his primary pupil that was witnessed not only by a sold-out crowd inside Shanghai’s Qi Zhong Tennis Center but also a worldwide TV audience tuning in at all hours.
With the roof closed, Federer played superb and confident in defeating Nadal, 6-4, 6-3, to win his second Shanghai Rolex Masters title (his first came in 2014) and 27th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 crown. It was Federer’s fourth victory over Nadal in 2017.
On a day that began curiously enough with Maria Sharapova winning her first WTA title in over two years – and first since her drugs ban – in beating Aryna Sabalenka, 7-5, 7-6 (8), at the Tianjin Open in China, in Shanghai, it was Federer who gave a masterful performance en route to his triumph over Nadal.
At 36, the Swiss continues to amaze everyone throughout the tennis world – fans, writers and commentators, competitors. The win was Federer’s sixth ATP World Tour title of the year – his 94th overall – and it was also his 700th match victory on hard courts.
Federer broke Nadal’s serve in the opening game of the match, then followed it up with three aces and an unreturned serve – and he never looked back. It was vintage Federer on display. He had eight easy service holds, won 83% (25 of 30) of his first-serve points and 79% (11 of 14) of his second-serve points. Additionally, Federer fired 10 service aces and dropped just eight points on his serve. He didn’t face a break point during the entire 1 hour and 12 minute match. It continued a remarkable stat line in Federer’s last three wins and six sets against Nadal in which he’s faced just one break point and not dropped serve against the World No. 1.
After it was over, ESPN tennis analyst Brad Gilbert tweeted “Absolutely amazing how this H2H has turned around for RF19 vs Vamos-Rafa all changed at 3-1 in the 5th set @AustralianOpen.”
Although Nadal still leads their career head-to-head 23-15, Federer improved his lifetime mark on hard courts against the Spaniard to 11-9 with Sunday’s victory.
“I played a great match today with hardly any mistakes,” said Federer, after winning his fifth straight over Nadal. “It was very clear for me how I had to play and I was able to do it for the one hour and 12 minutes that I was out there.
“I started perfectly and kept the pressure on before creating more opportunities on the return, stayed on the offensive, and then also pull back at the right times to make sure Rafa could make some errors on his own and that is exactly what happened.”
During the trophy ceremony, the 31-year-old Nadal, who was biding for a record 31st ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title, gave props to Federer. “Today, I think you played a fantastic match. So, well done, many congratulations,” said Nadal, always polite and complimentary of his opponent in victory or defeat.
Looking ahead, the World No. 2 Federer is the only one who can stop Nadal, the reigning French and U.S. Open champion, from ending the season as World No. 1. Certainly, after Sunday’s Shanghai Rolex Masters victory, it makes next month’s ATP World Tour Finals in London look all the more interesting and important. Federer drew within 1,960 points of Nadal for the No. 1 position in the Emirates ATP Race to London.
“London is my priority now and I really want to win the World Tour Finals,” said Federer, speaking to Sky Sports after his victory over Nadal. “I am very excited to have had the year that I have had and everything that comes from here is a bonus.
“Finishing the year as world number one is a long shot, and I don’t think it will happen. But, if I play like this, who knows? Maybe, I will get close again.”
Indeed, if Sunday’s performance by the master Federer is any indicator, the year-end No. 1 is still very much in play.
About the author
Michael Dickens is a Washington, D.C.-area freelance journalist who writes and blogs about tennis.