Two-time former champion Roger Federer was once again forced to dig deep for victory at the Rolex Shanghai Masters on Thursday. Having edged past Daniil Medvedev on Wednesday, it was the turn of 2016 runner-up Roberto Bautista Agut, who made Federer sweat over one hour and 52 minutes. But the top-seeded Swiss triumphed 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.
Federer broke Bautista Agut’s serve in the first game of the second set, but the Spaniard’s forehand began to fire. Federer, a winner of 98 tour-level titles, trusted his game and continued to attack, winning 11 of 12 net points in the decider, which saw him break Bautista Agut in the ninth game.
“I'm actually quite happy,” said Federer. “I thought that Bautista really had to raise his level of play in that second set to stay with me. I mean, he really caught fire, I thought. I served, I think, 80 per cent in that second set and got broken twice… At the end he got tight. I'm happy that, because of my match yesterday, I was able to stay maybe calmer, even this time around, and come up with a really good game to break at 4-4 and then serve it out was great. I was very happy.”
The Swiss superstar, who is one of four players — also Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro — that are battling to finish 2018 at year-end No. 1 in the ATP Rankings, will next challenge eighth-seeded Japanese Kei Nishikori in Friday’s quarter-finals. Federer leads Nitto ATP Finalscontender Nishikori 5-2 in their FedEx ATP Head2Head series.
“As we know with Kei's game, once he finds his range and his rhythm, he's very tough to play,” said Federer. “[I’m] not sure if fast courts suit him better or not, because I feel like he actually plays well on clay, grass, hard. He can do it all… [But] I think it's going to be a tough match tomorrow. I hope it's going to help me that I played against Medvedev and also Bautista Agut, two really good baseliners, to be honest.”
World No. 2 Federer, who earlier this year became the oldest No. 1 in the 45-year history of the ATP Rankings aged 36 on 19 February, is bidding to lift his 28th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title this week.
Federer broke serve in the fourth game of the first set and completed the 30-minute opener with a backhand volley winner on the first of his three set point chances. Having won Bautista Agut’s serve in the first game of the second set, Federer looked in complete control.
But 2016 finalist Bautista Agut had other ideas and won four straight games for a 4-1 advantage. The Spaniard’s forehand did the damage as Federer came forward to the net, but Bautista Agut finished the second set with a backhand return. Federer had won all 16 sets in their previous seven meetings.
But it was Federer who tightened his game at the right opportunity to break Bautista Agut’s serve in the eighth game, with a superb forehand, prior to closing out his 37th match win of the season.
Earlier in the day, Nishikori withstood the power of Sam Querrey, the big-serving American, to record a 7-6(7), 6-4 victory over one hour and 33 minutes.
The eighth-seeded Japanese star saved one set point at 5/6 in the first-set tie-break with a deep backhand return that caught Querrey off guard. Terrific speed around the court helped Nishikori break Querrey in the final game of the pair’s 10th FedEx ATP Head2Head meeting (Nishikori now leads 6-4).
Straight off a runner-up finish at last week’s Rakuten Japan Open Tennis Championships 2018, Nishikori is now 36-16 on the season (20-9 on hard courts). He is currently in 10th position in the ATP Race To London for one of the four remaining spots at the Nitto ATP Finals, to be held at The O2 in London from 11-18 November.
I'm not sure how I feel about Roger having to play back to back 3 setters, he is playing pretty well but he's really gonna have to bring it against Nishikori next.