Playing marvelous tennis, the Swiss master Roger Federer broke Novak Djokovic’s dream run of 29 straight victories in China on Saturday. For the last three years, there were speculations as to when the great Serb would stop winning in China. He hadn’t done a thing wrong until after winning his quarterfinal match against Ferrer and with his current form; he was odds-on-favorite to win against Federer. With Rafa Nadal on the sidelines, Federer’s game could only have been matched by Djokovic. It is another matter, when he can be upset by low-ranked players on a bad day. While Djokovic didn’t meekly surrender, the tennis abilities of the legendary Swiss were on full display at Shanghai. He played like a man possessed in the great semifinal match, which, to many, could be misleading because of the innocuous score line. It was not as if Djokovic made any errors, he played a classy game himself but only a shade lower to his long-time rival and close ATP colleague. For the spectators in the fully-occupied stadium, it was a real treat to be watching two of world’s best tennis players, both of whom exhibited the tennis skills worth emulating for anyone, who has any desire to excel in the game. Federer won 6-4, 6-4 to enter Sunday’s final, where he will take on Frenchman Gilles Simon, who defeated Spain’s Feliciano Lopez in the other semifinal, played earlier.
It was in 2010 that Federer had scored a 7-5, 6-4 win at the same venue in his semifinal match against Djokovic but going forward, he lost to the tremendously in-form Andy Murray in the final. When the play began in Shanghai’s densely packed Qizhong Tennis Center on Saturday, every point scored from either side was greeted with enthusiastic applause. It was a virtual final, not just for Shanghai spectators, but the entire tennis-loving world. The two champions were evenly matched until the fourth game of the first set but the crowd in the stadium went into raptures, when Federer broke Djokovic’s serve in the fifth game after missing his chance on the first break-point, which the Serb was able to save by passing Federer at the net. But on the second, Djokovic lost his serve as he could only generate a weak backhand slice. In the very next game, it was Djokovic’s turn to push Federer but lady luck favored the brave Swiss, who saved his service game and produced sublime form in his next serving opportunity. He sent down four consecutive aces, led 5-3 and closed the set two games later. Federer continued ruthlessly and broke Djokovic’s opening game in the second set. The lead became 2-0 after Federer’s following service game. Some of the shots that Federer produced were unbelievably breathtaking. In the second set, Djokovic made valiant attempts to come back in the ninth and tenth games, which saw brilliant tennis from both players. The ninth game kept returning to deuce time and time again and the tussle was finally ended, when Djokovic finally held his serve. In the tenth game, Federer managed to save his serve and finished the match in an hour and 36 minutes. In the entire match, Federer faced just one break point that he managed to save, produced 35 winners, served seven aces, and won 20 of 35 points coming to the net.
With his win yesterday, Federer improved to 19-17 against Djokovic and is well set to replace Nadal in the Emirates ATP rankings to be officially announced on Monday. But before that on Sunday, Federer will face Frenchman Gilles Simon in a bid to win his first title at Shanghai since its inception. Simon got the better of Spain’s Feliciano Lopez in the other semifinal played earlier on Saturday.
Simon is currently No. 29 in the ATP rankings but he will rise to 20th place on Monday after his semi-final victory over Felicino Lopez. If he could upset Federer in the final, he may even go up to No.15. In yesterday’s first match, he achieved his top form against Lopez in the 6-2, 7-6 win. His biggest victory came in the quarterfinals against Czech Republic’s Tomas Berdych and in the earlier round; he had upset Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka. Against Lopez, Simon played aggressive tennis breaking Lopez in the third game and easily pocketing the first set. In the second set however, Lopez forced a tie-break only to lose 1-7 against the charged up Frenchman. It was a sad ouster for the 33-year old Spaniard, who had beaten the American 13th seed John Isner and second seed Rafael Nadal on his way to the semifinal.