The Shanghai Rolex Masters fans will enjoy the great fortune of beholding the 38th career meeting between Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer in Sunday’s final. The world No. 1 Nadal holds a 23-14 advantage over the second-ranked Federer, and has won 14 of their 23 matches played in finals.
Federer, however, won all three of their matches played this year, including the Australian Open and Miami finals.
“Those are the matches to look back on,” Federer said. “I’m not sure what the stat is because most of them, half of them, maybe, were in finals and that’s why the rivalry is so special.
“I enjoy playing against him even if the head-to-head is not in my favor. He’s one of the guys whose made me a better player. I don’t want to thank him for that, but it made me go back and rework my game.”
This year marks the first time in Shanghai Rolex Masters history that the two finals – the singles and the doubles – will feature the top two seeds battling for the title.
Saturday’s semifinals brought out an enthusiastic crowd to the Shanghai Rolex Masters and fans definitely went home happy after watching two thrilling semifinal showdowns. The world No. 1 Rafael Nadal earned a 7-5, 7-6 (3) semifinal victory over fourth-seed Marin Cilic of Croatia, but it didn’t come easy.
“Of course I played I think a very high level of tennis,” Nadal said. “Was a great match again. In my opinion, he played well, too. Was a great, good quality of tennis this afternoon.
“I am very satisfied with everything,” he added. “Is true that I had that mistakes with my serve in the second. That’s the only thing. For the rest, I am happy.”
Rafael Nadal will be in the hunt for a seventh title in 10 finals played this season. He captured an ATP tour-leading sixth trophy last week in Beijing and is now cruising on a 16-match winning streak.
Heading onto the court, Nadal hadn’t dropped a service game all week – that equalled up to 32 straight service games won. All that changed at the hands of Cilic, who had the temerity to break Nadal’s serve not once, but twice, in the match.
The first service break came in the sixth game of the second set. The score was 30-40 when Nadal netted a forehand volley. His reaction: He smacked his racket against his leg twice, just above his knee.
“Is true, sometimes I get frustrated, too,” said Nadal, about his moment of self-abuse.
The second break was even more crucial as it came when Nadal was serving for the match at 5-4 in the 10th game. At 40-30 he made a forehand error and three points later he lost his serve.
Nadal held on to his second match point opportunity at 6-3 in the tiebreaker when Cilic netted a return.
The second-seeded Federer initially struggled to find a footing against 16th-seeded Juan Martin del Potro, who showed no signs of problems playing after injuring his left wrist in the quarterfinals.
In the end, though, Federer came through with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win to set up the final against Nadal. Federer turned it around when he broke del Potro’s serve on a fifth break point in the sixth game of the second set. From there, he built on that momentum to take the match.
“Getting that break and then holding is always key in tennis, especially with all the twists and turns in tennis,” Federer said. “If you blink at the right time your back can be against the wall.
“I really tried to push myself after playing a bit of a subdued first set.”
Top seeds Henri Kontinen of Finland and John Peers of Australia will play second seeds Lukasz Kubot of Poland and Marcelo Melo of Brazil in the Shanghai Rolex Masters doubles final.
Kontinen and Peers booked their second consecutive Shanghai final with a 7-6 (3), 3-6, [10-4] win over fourth seeds Jamie Murray of Great Britain and Bruno Soares of Brazil.
Kontinen and Peers fell to the American combo of John Isner and Jack Sock 6-4, 6-4 in last year’s final. Kubot and Melo outlasted third seeds Jean-Julien Rojer of the Netherlands and Horia Tecau of Romania in the other semifinal.