Roger Federer is through to the QFs of the Shanghai Rolex Masters! He has played 13 tournaments this year excluding the Davis Cup and he has reached the QFs or better in 11 of them. Consistency thy name is Federer! To reach his 11th QF he faced off against world #18 Roberto Bautista Agut who has been having a fantastic year of his own. He had some good wins coming into the match, but all that came to a halt with this match. Maybe it was the nighttime conditions that threw him off but I am more inclined to think it was Roger Federer who was in ridiculous form, to put it mildly.
Less than 24 hours after getting pushed to the brink and saving 5 match points Federer was back on court. I had a feeling he would have low energy and be exhausted or he would get rejuvenated and come out fighting. Thankfully for us, the latter was true. Roger’s level of play was much better than the day before right from the start. He served very well, mixed up the shots ingeniously and his moment had sense of confidence and authority. He was also brilliant at the net unlike the day before – maybe a certain Mr. Edberg had a conversation with him in between? 😉
The only complaint was his inability to convert break points int he first set. He kept pushing Bautista but whenever he got break points, either the Spaniard would serve well to get out of them or Roger would commit some unforced errors, though I am happy to report those error counts were much lower than in the previous match. The set progressed on serve till Roger held at 5-4* leaving Roberto to serve for the set. That is precisely when Roger kicked it up an extra gear and promptly broke the Spaniard to take the set 6-4.
That loss of the first set broke Bautista will. His level and intensity dipped and Roger played better and better. Roger broke Roberto right away at the start of the set and kept up the pressure throughout. At 4*-2 Roger was serving when an amazing point was cut short due to an incorrect line call which Roger knew was incorrect as well. Hawkeye indicated Roger was right which really annoyed the Maestro because the point had to be replayed. That made him lose focus and Roberto pounced on his chance, even getting a break point, his only one of the match. But thankfully Roger calmed down enough to hold and go up 5-2* leaving Roberto to serve to stay in the match. By then Bautista was done and Roger had his first match point on the Spaniards serve. One was all Roger needed and it was game, set, match, Federer 6-4, 6-2 in 72 minutes. Here are the highlights, here is his presser transcript and here are the match stats.I would say the highlights reel misrepresents the match because the entire match was a highlights reel. Almost all 72 minutes of it 😀 Roger was on fire. The first match gave him a much better idea of the conditions at night. Plus Roberto let him dictate play more than Mayer did. He hit so many impossible shots this match! There was a spattering of backhand smashes that only he can pull off and his volleys were magnificent; he won 22 out of 24 net points. On top of that Roger served very well too with 70% of his first serves going in and winning 86% of those points. Even his lobs were amazing; they were amazing enough to elicit admiration from AC Milan legends Paolo Maldini and Andriy Shevchenko too 😀 Roberto was outplayed, plain and simple.
Up next is an old foe, Julien Benneteau and we are right to be wary of him. Benneteau somehow causes problems for Roger and their H2H is 5-2 in favour of the Swiss. Both of Julien’s wins came in indoor matches and we all still remember him pushing Roger in Wimbledon 2012 which was coincidentally also held indoors. He is not in awe of Roger and will come out with all guns blazing and nothing to lose. He is also very proficient at the net and will get to Roger’s volleys as well as make plenty of his own. Hopefully Roger will be able to keep him running from corner to corner at the back of the court. There will be plenty of shot-making from both players, you can be sure of that.
5 hours to go! Fingers crossed it goes well for our champ!