It’s not only about the great tennis this week at the Shanghai Rolex Masters as this is the week the final steps of the race to be the year-end world No.1 really heats up. There’s two guys in the running – Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer – and neither is a stranger to ending seasons at the summit of world tennis.
Here’s the lowdown on these familiar names of the game: Nadal is currently No.1 with Federer nipping at his heels at No.2. Nadal has won an ATP tour-leading six titles this season with Federer close behind with five. Nadal won the French and U.S. Opens, while Federer won the Australian Open and Wimbledon.
This is the current scenario whereby Nadal can retain the No.1 ranking for the year. He would need to win the title and Federer would have to lose prior to the semifinals.
Nadal, who is still in the market for his first Shanghai Rolex Masters title, had little trouble dispatching American Jared Donaldson 6-2, 6-1 in just 54 minutes.
Nadal surrendered only four points on serve in eight service games in the match. Failing to extend even a break point opportunity to Donaldson complicated the possibility of the American advancing to the round-of-16.
“It was a very quick match in all aspects,” Nadal said. “I was happy to have that break at 3-2 in the sixth game. After that I think I played a great match. Not many mistakes. Happy with everything. For me it was difficult to imagine a better start. But just the beginning, no? Tomorrow another tough match.”
In comparison, Roger Federer had to work harder for his 7-6 (4), 6-4 second round win over Diego Schwartzman of Argentina. Federer led 4-2 in the first set but surrendered that lead to end up fighting it out in a tiebreaker.
Federer, the 2014 Shanghai champion, struggled to close out the match when serving at 5-4, requiring two match points to get the deed done. In the end, a 14th ace moved Federer onto a round-of-16 match against qualifier Alexandr Dolgopolov.
“I knew going in it was not going to be easy because he’s had a great run the last few weeks, months,” Federer said. “He was confident. He was shaking off misses, no problems. He was serving well, making the right decisions.
“He was confident and as an opponent you can feel that. I felt that today it was going to be dangerous down the stretch of every set.”
A second-round win did not come easily for sixth seed Grigor Dimitrov, who was taken the distance by American Ryan Harrison before moving onto the next round.
Dimitrov, who had never before won a Shanghai Rolex Masters second round match, had to escape three match points in the third set tiebreaker before posting a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5) win in two hours, 33 minutes.
The 46th-ranked Harrison looked in position to score the victory with a 4-2 lead in the final set, but couldn’t hold onto the advantage. Harrison also held a 6-3 lead in the tiebreaker, but watched as those three match points fell by the wayside. Dimitrov fought back to take the win on a 16th ace.
“Those are the matches I really want to win,” Dimitrov said. “I was feeling good the whole match even coming out of the first set, which he was playing well. I just had to find my way through the whole match.
“I just had to be there (on those match points),” Dimitrov added. “At (my) match point, I just had to make my first serve because I knew he would go for it if not.”