Boom. Title #81 in the bag, Masters title #23 in the bag, and closing in fast on a record 6th year end #1 at age 33. Old in tennis terms? Roger Federer says no! Judging by the way he played this week there may as well be a whole new era of Federer dominance ahead. OK maybe that is going over board a bit but is 100 titles and 20 slams within range? Just a thought. This Shanghai title is a big deal and should be appreciated on its own terms. Never mind what lies ahead. Roger has now won 7 out of the 9 Masters titles and is only missing Monte Carlo and Rome. It’s a pity he couldn’t win Monte Carlo this year after coming so close against Stan, not to mention how close he came in Rome against Nadal in the 2006 final. As far as overall Masters titles go Roger is now alone in second place moving ahead of Lendl on 22. Nadal is on 27 but he has a bit of an advantage since there are three Masters on clay and none on grass.
If there were an equal amount of Masters on clay and grass, or at least one on grass and two on clay, then you bet Roger would have been ahead in that category as well. But no matter, he still leads in the most important categories like slams, weeks at #1, and Masters Cup titles. This is now Roger’s 4th title of the year after missing out on some big chances in Indian Wells, Monte Carlo, and Toronto. And he only just missed out on those chances too. So this is very satisfying in that regard. That puts him now only one short of his goal of winning 5 titles this season(if I remember correctly). That would be a good number of titles in my view anyway. It would top 2008, 2009, 2011, and 2013 in terms of titles won. But of course he lacks the all important slam so in that regard he would only top 2011 and 2013. In 2011 Roger also won the Masters Cup so Roger would probably have to achieve that feat to top 2011 too.
Whatever the case may be it has already been a terrific comeback season after the big low of 2013. And the way he played this week makes me not only excited for what lies ahead the rest of this season but after that too. I think Roger showed something very special this week in Shanghai. And I am not necessarily talking about the way he played and the title that he won. Maybe the most impressive of all to me was his mental fortitude. It showed in his first match against Mayer, it showed in the first set against Benneteau, it showed against Djokovic, and maybe today it was the most impressive. OK I realize saving match points against Mayer in his first match took titanium balls but there was less at stake than in the final, especially after Roger had already done the hard work by defeating Djokovic. He had already lost three Masters finals this year and this was an opportunity he did not want to let slip.
But Simon proved to be an incredibly difficult and worthy opponent. I won’t lie to you. At times during the match I hated Simon because of the way he plays, but you have to respect the way he competed. I said in my last post that Roger could crush Simon, but right out of the starting blocks I knew there is no way that would happen. Roger was no doubt in for another very difficult match. Roger went down an early break even, but in the nick of time at 4-5 got the break back after adjusting his game plan. The game plan he used against Djokovic where he took the initiative and played full out offensive tennis was clearly not going to work against Simon. Simon likes pace and he absorbs it very well, then catches you unaware with some pace of his own. Roger was caught off guard in the first set but I thought he did extremely well to adjust his tactics in time and not let the first set slip.
It was clear that he had to be slightly more patient in the rallies and not give Simon as much pace. Once he figured that out things became easier, but not by much. Simon was still making a massive nuisance of himself. He kept Roger 100% honest and gave him absolutely nothing throughout. Roger really had to win this final the hard way by busting his butt. In the first tie break Simon got the early break but Roger pulled him back and got a mini break of his own. But Simon wouldn’t let him pull away and broke back too. Then at 5-4 and Simon serving I thought there was a big moment when Roger missed a volley he really should have made which could have given him two set points. I thought that would cost Roger the first set but again he was hugely impressive in the mental department, by holding on to his own serve and making a beautiful clutch pass down the line at 7-6 in the breaker.
To my great relief the first set was in the bag, but there was no letting up from Simon. He just kept making life very difficult indeed for Roger. Roger had a break point at 1-1 but Simon wouldn’t let him get away. Then with Simon serving at 5-5 and 15-30 down there was another big volley miss from Roger which could have given him another virtual two set and match points. Again I thought it would cost him the set, because in the next game Simon had two set points on Roger’s serve at 15-40. But again Roger showed great mental fortitude to dig himself out of a difficult situation and force the tie break. In the tie break Roger got the early break but Simon pulled him back one more time. Simon hold serve once to even at 2-2 but after that it was all Roger. With Simon serving to stay in it at 2-5 Roger was taking no more prisoners as he ripped a forehand return winner to set up four match points.
On match point Simon netted a forehand after a base line rally and it was all over. Roger had finally gotten this incredibly difficult and annoying opponent off his back. If Roger ever deserved a Masters title then it is this one. First he saved match points in his first match, then straight setted the world #1 in an absolute master class, and finally shows tremendous composure to overcome a very difficult final opponent. I rate this Masters title among Roger’s best. People will look at the match and the stats of the final and say Roger played OK but not great, and they would miss the point completely. Tennis is definitely not always about looking good when you win. Tennis is a match up game and some opponents simply won’t allow you to look good against them. For me this victory is right on par with the win against Djokovic. Maybe even better because mentally it was a tougher test.
Roger was actually a break down and had to change his game plan mid match to find a way back into the match. And Simon never loosened his grip in the second set like I expected he would. That’s why I say he kept Roger 100% honest. But whether people appreciated the mental effort of Roger or not doesn’t matter. The title is in the bag and he is looking awfully good towards the end of the season here. I think Roger may even play Paris and not skip an event. We will see. I don’t think he will skip Basel anyway. The fact that Djokovic will possibly skip Paris due to his baby’s birth gives Roger the unique opportunity to end the year ranked #1 for a record 6th time. Roger comes away with a delicious 1000 points after his title and is now almost 1000 points ahead of Nadal in the rankings. And of course in the race he is only 990 points behind Djokovic.
I mean if Djokovic skips Paris and Roger plays Basel and Paris then Roger can already be in the lead when the Masters Cup begins. I’m not sure when Djokovic’s baby is expected though and I’m not sure if he will skip Paris, so we’ll have to see. But given the way Roger is playing the chances actually look more than decent that he can end the year ranked #1. How cool would it be if he wins the Masters Cup, ends the year as #1, and wins the Davis Cup? It couldn’t get better than that of course but to win Davis Cup for one thing he will need the help of Stan, and he won’t be allowed any room for error himself. Stan is still struggling and I hope he can play himself into some better form before the all important Davis Cup final. Well it’s been another terrific week as a tennis fan and a Fedfan and I very much enjoyed sharing this experience with all of you, so thank you!
I can’t wait to see what is next!