Monday, October 16, 2017

Roger Federer says goodbye to scars and shanks

When it comes to playing Rafael Nadal, things haven’t always been easy for Roger Federer.

Although their 38th meeting ended in a 6-4, 6-3 win, his fifth in a row against his Spanish southpaw rival, Federer still trails Nadal 15 to 23 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head. The Nadal playbook has always been simple, but historically effective against Federer: use heavy topspin forehands to pound away at the weaker Federer one-handed backhand and attack the open court at the first opportunity.

But in 2017, the Swiss has managed to flip the script.

“I think I'm maybe serving consistently better. I get easier power ever since I switched to the bigger racquet, the RF97. I feel I'm connecting better on the backhand and I'm serving good, and that consistently,” said Federer, who at one point in Sunday’s final won a service game in 52 seconds with four straight aces.

“Before I had to slice more just because the racquet was good for the slice, and it was good for the coming over, but I would always shank too many balls,” he added.

Aggressive backhand play has been a characteristic of the 36 year old’s renaissance this season, allowing him yet another dimension in his fluid, attacking style of tennis. Although his one-hander hasn’t always been a weapon, 11 of Federer’s 28 winners in the Shanghai final came off that wing.

“I think it was hard for me to consistently just keep on attacking with the backhand,” Federer said. “Today it seems almost not a problem anymore to do it."

In what has been one of tennis’s most storied rivalries, Nadal has often come out on top, particularly on his beloved clay courts, upon which he owns a 13-2 record against the Swiss legend – Federer admits that those matches took their toll on him in previous seasons.

“I just think I'm not so scarred like maybe I have been in the past, not that I was horribly scarred in any way, but I did lose against him sometimes, a lot of the times especially on the clay courts. I do believe I still lost that Wimbledon final in '08 because of the French Open beatdown he gave me. It just affected my first two sets when I played him at Wimbledon.

“But, yeah, I think I have also played him well. Clearly avoiding him – not playing him on clay has helped,” added Federer. “So I'm able to stay on the hard courts or on faster courts against him, but I have been playing very well when I have faced off against him."

Federer’s Shanghai crown this week keeps him in contention for the year-end No.1 spot in the Emirates ATP Rankings, which would have been all but sealed for Nadal had he emerged victorious in the final. With strong results at the upcoming tournaments in Basel and Paris, Federer has the opportunity to set up a dramatic climax to the season: a fight for No.1 at the Nitto ATP Finals for the second straight year (Murray d. Djokovic in 2016 to claim the top spot.)

Despite closing the gap with Nadal on both the No.1 ranking and in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series this season, Federer insists that they aren’t targets for him – especially in the latter metric, where the Spaniard still leads by eight wins.

“It's not going to happen,” said Federer bluntly on overtaking Nadal in their rivalry. “We don't have enough years left on the tour, and we're ranked too good that we play each other only in finals at the moment. It looks like that's going to stay like this for a few months more. So can't win them all against Rafa, to be honest. He's too good of a player.

“I'm just excited I'm on a good stretch right now. Head-to-heads? Yeah, sure, I would like it to be different, but I have utmost respect for Rafa. It's been a tough matchup for me, and I tried my best. I have played him a lot on clay in the beginning of my career. No problem. I tried. I was close on many occasions, but he's better on clay. I try to win the other ones that I can, and this year has been great so I'm happy about it.”

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Roger Federer dominates Rafael Nadal to win 2nd Shanghai title!

 Really wish you would have shaved Roger

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Roger Federer was at his ruthless best on Sunday, streaking to the Shanghai Rolex Masters title with a 6-4, 6-3 victory over Rafael Nadal. It was a vintage Federer performance, as the Swiss secured the 71-minute win with a dominant display, clinching a second Shanghai crown (2014) and 27th at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 level.

With the win, Federer notched his 700th match victory on hard courts and improved to 10-1 against the Top 10 this year. It was the 94th title in his storied career, which pulls him level with Ivan Lendl for second on the Open Era list. Only Jimmy Connors owns more trophies (109).

Federer's 2017 campaign continues to set the bar, as the 36 year old added a sixth title and third at the Masters 1000 stage. Having also prevailed in Indian Wells and Miami, it marks the fifth time in his career in which he has captured at least three such championships. Moreover, with the win, Federer draws to within 1,960 points of Nadal for the top spot in the Emirates ATP Race To London, with year-end No. 1 still very much in play. Both will be competing at the Swiss Indoors Basel, followed by the Rolex Paris Masters and Nitto ATP Finals.

"I had no nerves really before the match, which was nice," said Federer. "I was pretty clear about how I wanted to play the match. And then I came out and started off very well. Felt relaxed from then on. I always know that Rafa can come back at any moment if he connects well, picks the right sides, and does the right things.

"I even felt that way being up 0/40, you know, going for the double break, but, I had a clear game plan and felt I was playing well all week. I think that settled my nerves, because I was returning well from the first match here I played against Schwartzman. The serve only got better. I guess I saved the best for last. I played some good matches now against del Potro and also now these two sets.

"In a way, it's not surprising, because I did feel good all week, and it does pay off to arrive early to an event. You can't do it all the time, but I was here since Thursday late night and that's five, six days to prepare for a Wednesday match. So I was ready."

Open Era Title Leaders





Nadal leads their FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry 23-15, but Federer is doing his best to narrow the margin, having won their past five match-ups. The trend continued in Sunday's final, with the Basel native capitalising on the fast conditions under the lights on Stadium Court.

With torrential rain drenching the Qi Zhong Tennis Center, the roof was closed for the blockbuster clash of titans. Federer was in control from the first ball, looking to break down Nadal's defence with an assault of forehands and backhands. The attacking Swiss made an immediate statement with a break in the opening game, carving a cross-court slice approach that caught Nadal out of position, followed by a boisterous backhand winner down the line.

In each of Federer's three previous victories over Nadal this season - at the Australian Open and ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events in Indian Wells and Miami - the Swiss won more than 75 per cent of first serve points. His delivery was on song once again in Sunday's final, claiming 83 per cent of total service points in closing out a 6-4 first set.

The second set featured more vintage Federer, as the second seed struck a stunning drop volley winner and forced Nadal to misfire on a forehand to claim the break for 3-2. Federer executed his gameplan to perfection throughout the 71-minute affair, sealing the win on his second match point when a Nadal forehand found the net.

Federer has now won five consecutive encounters in their FedEx ATP Head2Head and is 4-0 this year. It marked the third time they have met on Chinese soil, with the Swiss scoring a pair of wins at the 2006 & '07 Nitto ATP Finals, when the season finale was held in Shanghai.

Nadal, meanwhile, was bidding for a record 31st ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title. The 31-year-old Spaniard suffered his first defeat since returning to No. 1 in the Emirates ATP Rankings in August, seeing his win streak snapped at 16 straight. He was appearing in the Shanghai final for the second time, having finished runner-up to Nikolay Davydenko in the tournament's inaugural edition in 2009.

"It was a very difficult match for me," said Nadal. "He played very fast and he played well. I don't know how many unforced errors he made. I could have done some things better, but that's it. He just played too good. That's my point of view. So congrats to him.

"I played a fantastic tournament, having very good wins. Very pleased the way I played the whole Asian tour for me. Beijing and Shanghai have been a very positive two weeks for me. A lot of points, a lot of victories against great opponents. I come back with very good personal satisfaction the way that I played."

I said to a friend that I hoped he'd beat Nadal in straight sets, but I honestly didn't think it would happen given how Nadal had been playing and having won Beijing the previous week.  I thought for sure Roger would have to battle it out in 3.  

But clearly Roger had other plans, because he just came out storming right out of the gate and everything was working. 

His returns, his forehand, his backhand and his serve were all on point throughout.  It was simply virtuosic performance. 

So this makes it the 4th time in a row this year Roger has beaten Nadal (5th overall). Who would have thought.  

No wonder Rafa's answer during the U.S. Open was that he hoped he didn't have to play Roger.  2017 is Roger's best year in some time.  It's a pleasure to watch. 

Next up Basel and the Paris masters with a shot at possibly taking back the #1 ranking at the season ending championships.  

Time to start dreaming big again.  And why not, feels like anything is possible this year with the maestro in god mode. 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Roger Federer avenges Juan Martin Del Potro U.S. Open loss sets up Fedal final in Shanghai

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Roger Federer will face longtime rival Rafael Nadal for the fourth time this season after coming from a set down to defeat Juan Martin del Potro, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 at the Shanghai Rolex Masters. The 2014 champion advances to his third final at the ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event.

Federer’s 350th win at the Masters 1000 level set a crucial showdown with Nadal in the battle for year-end World No. 1. Should Nadal win on Sunday he will stretch his lead over Federer in the Emirates ATP Race To London to 2,760 points and effectively put the issue beyond doubt. However, should Federer win his fifth consecutive match over Nadal, he would pull to within 1,960 points. That’s still a lot of ground to make up to finish atop the year-end standings for the first time since 2009, but within the realm of possibility if Federer finishes the year as strongly as he started it.

"It's nice at this late stage of the career that we still have these matches going on," Federer said. "There is only going to be a few chances for either player, and sometimes it's just who blinks at the wrong time."

After failing to capitalise on four consecutive break points while down a set and up 3-2 in the second set, it appeared that Federer might be denied a meeting with World No. 1 Nadal for the second time in as many months by the Argentine, who defeated him in the quarter-finals at the US Open. But when del Potro missed a forehand wide on the fifth consecutive break point he faced, the 29 year old gave the Swiss all the momentum he needed to turn the match around.

"Clearly getting the break and then holding, it's always key in tennis," Federer said. "I'm happy I was able to do it, especially with all the twists and turns and, blink at the wrong time, he might hold the game and then you don't know what's going to happen next."

The 36 year old did not face a break point in the final two sets, and broke twice in the decider to advance in one hour and 58 minutes.

It was unclear just how fit del Potro would be for the match after he fell on his surgically-repaired left wrist in the third set of his quarter-final victory against Viktor Troicki on Friday. His communications manager, Jorge Viale, tweeted that the 2013 Shanghai finalist suffered a contusion, and was in a splint Friday evening. But you would not have known it by watching the right-hander compete against the World No. 2.

Early on, he answered virtually every aggressive shot by Federer with an even bigger forehand of his own, and even stepped into a number of two-handed backhands down the line to gain control of points. The Swiss consistently attacked his opponent's weaker backhand before changing directions to finish points to del Potro's forehand, but the Argentine's rocket of a forehand proved too tough to handle more often than not. On Federer's first break point in the sixth game of the second set, he chose to approach to del Potro's forehand, which came back like a laser from meters behind the baseline, a passing shot that forced a backhand volley error.

But once Federer finally broke through in the 19-point game in the second set, del Potro appeared frustrated, especially with the pro-Federer crowd in Shanghai, which the chair umpire had to ask to quiet down.

"He took the confidence after that game. He broke me and he started to play more aggressive. He served much better after that game,” del Potro said. "I was a little upset with something. Nothing about tennis. And you cannot give any advantage against these guys."

Federer began to use his slice to throw off del Potro's rhythm and extract more errors, and using his openings to be more aggressive himself. The strategy worked, and the 26-time Masters 1000 winner won 37 per cent of points on his opponent's serve in the final set, consistently threatening to break.

Federer will meet Nadal for the third time in a final in 2017, after winning the titles against him in Melbourne and Miami. The Swiss also beat his rival in their other meeting, which came in the Round of 16 at Indian Wells, and will look to close a 14-23 deficit in the pair’s FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry.

The Spaniard carries a 16-match winning streak into the final, and will look to extend his tour lead to seven titles this season. Federer will attempt to tie Nadal by claiming his sixth trophy of the year.

38th Fedal meeting. Here we go!.  Go Rog!.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Roger Federer sets up semi-final rematch with Del Potro in Shanghai

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Roger Federer moved another step closer to earning his second Shanghai Rolex Masters title on Friday with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Richard Gasquet to advance to the semi-finals, where he will play No. 16 seed Juan Martin del Potro.

"I thought it was a really good match. Some big points, important shots at the right time for both guys sometimes to stay even, and we both created chances," Federer said. "I thought we were able to keep up the level from the beginning till the very end...I enjoyed it because it was slices and topspins and angles and power and finesse. I think the match had a bit of everything."

Considering the Swiss entered the match having won the past 15 sets against the Frenchman, all by margins of 6-4 or greater, it looked like the fans in Shanghai might be in for a surprise when Gasquet held a break point while up 3-2 in the opening set.

But Federer held him off and would break at 5-5 to give him the edge that allowed him to win the opening set. He’d break in Gasquet’s next service game as well to jump to an early lead in the second set, but the 31 year old refused to lose touch, getting back on serve immediately.

However, when Federer broke for the third time in the match at 3-3, he would not relinquish the advantage again, and would close out the quarter-final in one hour and 18 minutes.

Federer said during his press conference that he saw del Potro fall and hurt his left wrist during the Argentine's quarter-final victory against Viktor Troicki, and a reporter informed the Swiss that del Potro went to the hospital to get an MRI.

"I hope for him that it's nothing serious. Of course it's on the wrist, as well, that he's had problems in the past, so this is where he's worried, rightfully so. For me, at the end of the day, nothing changes. I'm ready to come out here tomorrow and see the match like it's a revenge chance for the US Open, where it was tight and I couldn't win. So I see that more than his injury," Federer said. "But I hope for now that Juan Martin can recover and we can play a normal match."

Federer owns a 16-6 lead in his FedEx ATP Head2Head series with del Potro, including wins in three of their past four matches. But in September, del Potro prevented the first Federer-Rafael Nadal match at the US Open when he eliminated the Swiss in four sets in the quarter-finals.

The No. 2 seed has not dropped a set this week in his pursuit of a third ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title this season (Indian Wells, Miami), while del Potro has been pushed to a decider in three of his four matches. If Federer gets through what should be a tough battle against del Potro, it will not get easier with World No. 1 Rafael Nadal taking on fourth seed Marin Cilic in the other semi-final.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Roger Federer eases into the quarters at Shanghai Rolex Masters

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Roger Federer continued his pursuit of a second Shanghai Rolex Masters title with a straightforward 6-4, 6-2 win on Thursday evening against the lone qualifier to advance to the third round, Alexandr Dolgopolov.

"I felt good in the first match, I must tell you," said Federer of his opening victory over Diego Schwartzmanin which he broke on two of eight opportunities. "So I felt, I think, the same. I think maybe the matchup was maybe a bit easier and I took my chances more. Had a better ratio of winning on the break points that I didn't quite have against Schwartzman. That's maybe the biggest difference of both matches, so I'm happy I was able to do better today on the break points."

He took three of seven break opportunities against Dolgopolov, and the Swiss was never significantly challenged in the match, facing just one break point, as he served for the first set. But when the Ukrainian made an error down break point at 2-2 in the second set, the finish line came into sight, and Federer then broke again in a 19-point game at 4-2 to allow him to serve for the match, which he did without a hitch.

Federer advances to his fourth quarter-final in six appearances in Shanghai. Each time he has made it that far at the event, he has continued to at least the semi-finals.

The No. 2 in the Emirates ATP Rankings, who has already qualified for the Nitto ATP Finals, is seeking his sixth title of the season, which would tie Rafael Nadal for the ATP World Tour lead.

The 36 year old will next play Richard Gasquet, against whom he has a 15-2 lead in their FedEx ATP Head2Head. Federer has not lost to the Frenchman since 2011 in Rome, with the other defeat coming in 2005 (Monte Carlo).

"I like playing Gasquet on fast courts," Federer said. "I hope I can again put in a similar performance like today."

Gasquet advanced to the quarter-final with a back-and-forth 7-5, 6-7(5), 6-3 victory over compatriot Gilles Simon in two hours and 40 minutes.

It appeared that the 31 year old would quickly extend his FedEx ATP Head2Head over Simon to 7-0 when he broke to lead 3-1 in the second set, but his 32-year-old opponent fought back to force a decider. While Simon broke immediately in the third set to gain the advantage, Gasquet then broke twice in a row and held on to earn a spot in his first Shanghai quarter-final.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Roger Federer fights through Shanghai Opener

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Roger Federer had to fight but eventually came through a tight opener on Wednesday at the Shanghai Rolex Masters, beating Argentine Diego Schwartzman 7-6(4), 6-4 to advance to the third round of the season's penultimate ATP World Tour Masters 1000 tournament.

Federer improved to 4-0 against Schwartzman in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series and celebrated his 40th match win of the year with the straight-sets victory. The 36-year-old Swiss is now 40-4 during his comeback season.

“I think I served well. I had good concentration. Had good energy, as well, which I think is always important early on in a tournament,” Federer said.

During his first match in Shanghai since 2015, Federer was aggressive as he has been all season. He stepped into flat backhands and attacked the net, winning 14/24 net points. But the second seed did have to shake off a bit of rust in the big moments.

Before Wednesday, he hadn't played a tour-level match since 6 September, when he lost to Juan Martin del Potro in the US Open quarter-finals, and Federer saw break point after break point disappear in the first set.

Schwartzman, though, had much to do with that as well. The 5' 7” right-hander is enjoying his best season. He has climbed to a career-high No. 26 in the Emirates ATP Rankings and was coming off a semi-final run at the Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2017 in Tokyo (l. to eventual champion Goffin).

Schwartzman fended off break points at 1-2 before Federer broke in the sixth game to lead 4-2. The very next game, though, Federer, the 2014 titlist, was broken. At 3-4, Federer again had two more chances to break but Schwartzman saved them all. They headed to a tie-break, where Federer overcame an early mini-break for the one-set lead.

“I knew going in it was not going to be easy. He's had a great run in recent weeks and months. I really felt that he was confident. Shaking off misses, no problem. He was serving well. You could see he was taking the right decisions on his groundstrokes,” Federer said of Schwartzman.

“As an opponent, you feel that. You could see there was sort of an ease about his game today. I felt like that was going to be dangerous down the stretch of any set. I felt that tie-break was tough. I was down and then came up with some really good shot-making after that in the 'breaker to really turn it around.”

Federer can't afford to let this opportunity for a big week in Shanghai slip if he wants to stay competitive in the battle for year-end No. 1. Rafael Nadal, who also won on Wednesday, is more than 2,000 points ahead of the Swiss star.

The Basel native made life more straightforward during the second set. He broke to love to start and cruised to his 28th hard-court match win of the season (28-3). The right-hander is going for his sixth tour-level title of the year and his third Masters 1000 crown, having won the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells in March and the Miami Open presented by Itau in April.

“I think getting the break early in the second set gave me the chance to try a few more things, play more relaxed, go for my shots more, and then I was able to bring it home, coming back from 0/30 I think in the last game,” Federer said. “So it was a good match for me. I'm actually very happy with my level.”

He will next face Ukraine's Alexander Dolgopolov, who beat Spaniard Feliciano Lopez 7-6(4), 1-6, 6-4.

A little rusty which was to be expected.  Serve was on point though. and he was very aggressive and made some great return serves all good to see.  Here's hoping he only gets better.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Roger Federer's Hopman Cup schedule announced

The Swiss star will compete at the Australian-based mixed competition alongside compatriot Belinda Bencic. Switzerland have been placed in Group B along with the United States, Russia and Japan and will play singles and doubles matches against the competing nations.

Federer’s first match of the tournament will be against Yuichi Sugita on December 30. The world No 2 won his only meeting with the world No 40. He and Bencic will then play a doubles match against Sugita and Naomi Osaka. His first match of 2018, and second of singles contest of the tournament, will be against Russia’s Karen Khachanov before a doubles contest. Federer has also faced Khachanov just once, beating the world No 42 at the grass court tournament in Halle earlier this year.

Federer’s final confirmed singles match of the tournament is with Jack Sock of the United States on January 4. That promises to be the toughest contest of all with Sock up to 21 in the world rankings, however Federer has won all three of their meetings. Coco Vandeweghe will join Sock to face Federer and Bencic in doubles afterwards.