Roger Federer is in the Shanghai SFs! The Maestro wasn’t having the best day. He was suffering from a cold and had to keep using tissues so by the end of the match his nose was a bit red. The late night finishes of his matches have been tough for him too as he mentioned in his previous presser. And right at the beginning of the match, in the second game, he got into an argument with the umpire, so clearly he was cranky right from the start. Yet thankfully, despite the mood, his tennis never suffered.
He started off set 1 with a 58 second hold and it was a while before his tricky opponent, Julien Benneteau, could even get a point on the Swiss’ serve. Roger played with confidence and hit beautiful clean shots, displaying great anticipation and mixing up defense and offense perfectly. Unlike the match before, he didn’t come to the net as often which makes sense as he knows Benneteau and his strengths as a doubles player. He countered the Frenchman’s aggressive onslaught with fantastic baseline play and some scintillating passing shots that had the crowd oohing and ahhing 😀
The set went along on serve with Roger holding serve quite easily. Julien had to fight much more but yet never offered our champ any break points either. The set eventually arrived at the inevitable tie-break. Roger started it off giving a mini-break to Julien to go down 0-1*. But then Julien gave it back plus one more to go down 1-2* instead. Roger however decided more drama was needed so he gave two more mini-breaks to the Frenchman. Now he was down 2-3*. Not to be outdone, Benneteau gave Roger a break back as well so at the change of ends, it was actually on serve at 3 all. But Julien wasn’t done. After the change of ends he gave his serve away again so then it was Roger with the mini-break at 4*-3. After that finally the Maestro held both his serves to go up 6-3* and had 3 set points. Julien saved the first one but not the second as Roger took the set 7-6(7-4) in 49 minutes.
It had been a high quality set of tennis from both players. Neither had provided any break points opportunities and both had more winners than unforced errors – Roger had 20 winners to 10 unforced errors. However, the Swiss definitely served better than his opponent, winning a staggering 92% of his first serves. One set was in the bag and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of relief. I thought it was crucial that Roger won the first set because had Julien won it, I felt the Frenchman would have become even more encouraged and would continue to play at a high level in the subsequent sets. But I had a sneaky feeling that if Julien lost the set, after all that work he would get the wind knocked off his sails and his resolve would weaken a bit. Thankfully for us, that’s what happened.
Julien shakily started set 2 and his loss of concentration lead to Roger getting 2 break points. The Swiss missed the first one but an error from Julien gave him the second and it was the first break of the match. Serving to consolidate, Roger quickly held to 15 and went up 2-0*. Julien by then had already begun to look like he was done and went down 0-40 to give our champ break points again. This time, Roger took it right away and went up a double break to 3*-0. Things started moving very quickly from then on. Roger held to 15 again with some magnificent serving and consolidated the double break to go up 4-0*.
The Frenchman tried one last time to get a game in and he was up 30-15 and then 40-30. But a stunning volley from the Maestro took it to deuce and an error from Benneteau gave the advantage and thus another break point to Roger. Roger took it instantly with a beautiful backhand down the line return of serve and the Frenchman was broken for a third time. Roger was left to serve for a bagel set and the match. He served it out to love with his 10th ace to bring up match point and his 11th ace to win the match. Set 2 took only 20 minutes so the entire match was done in 1 hour and 9 minutes. Roger played a brilliant set 2 with 14 winners and only 3 unforced errors in the set.
There were so many magnificent shots from this match from Roger that I will simply link them here as link 1, link 2, link 3, link 4 and link 5. Here are the highlights, the link to his presser transcript and the stats.This was probably the best match out of the three Roger has played in Shanghai so far. He has gotten better with each one which is a good sign indeed, especially since he was off the tour for a whole month. However, considering his opponent up next in the SFs, Roger, despite his level of play is still the underdog. He will face off against the player he has faced the most in his career; current world #1 and the untouchable god of the Asian swing, Novak Djokovic. This will be their 36th encounter with Roger having a tiny lead in their H2H with 18-17 so far. They have played 4 times this year already, 2 SFs and 2 finals and they have split the results equally with Roger winning the 2 SFs and Novak the 2 finals. Their most recent match was the Wimbledon final and I don’t want to talk about that match so this topic ends right here.
- This was Roger’s 1,207th career match and 982nd career match win.
- This was Roger’s 604th hardcourt match win, 742nd outdoor match win and 307th Masters match win.
- Roger has reached his 165th career SF and 53rd SF of all the Masters tournaments he has played in his career.
- This was Roger’s 59th match win in 2014 which helped him to reach his 11th SF out of 14 tournaments he has played this year.
That’s it from me. By reaching the SFs Roger has exceeded my expectations from Shanghai so I am already very proud of him. But perhaps there is a bit more magic left before he flies back to Europe for the final leg of 2014. Tune in at 8pm local Shanghai time to find out 🙂