Top seed Roger Federer opened the defense of his Rolex Shanghai Masters title on Wednesday night and found that Russian Daniil Medvedev had no intention of surrendering the match without a fight.
The competitive encounter eventually landed the defending champion in the round-of-16 with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 scoreline. Medvedev finally offered Federer an opening in the ninth game of the final set. The break came at 30-40 in that game when Medvedev sent a forehand way out of bounds.
One game later, at 40-15, Federer hit a winning serve to move onto an on-court appointment with Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut.
“I tried a bit of everything and that’s why I am happy because it did work,” Federer said.
This is an important week for Federer, who not only is in the hunt for a third Shanghai title, but is hoping to win his 28th career ATP Masters 1000 title.
Federer had a little hiccup in the first set, surrendering a 2-0 lead, but it was of little consequence. In the ninth game he broke serve on a second break point and then served out the set in the next game.
It was the second set where Federer had a costly let-down. Serving at 4-5 he went down 0-30 in the tenth game, but recovered to 30-30. But then just like that he was behind 30-40 when a Medvedev forehand winner evened the score to one set apiece.
Eighth seed Kei Nishikori, a finalist in Tokyo last week, ended the dream of young Chinese Wu Yibing of going further in the draw this year. Wu started out strong in the match, but eventually surrendered to the more experienced Nishikori 3-6, 6-0, 6-3.
Despite the loss, this tournament has been a great stepping stone for Wu. On Monday, he won the first ATP tour-level match of his career when he defeated fellow Chinese wildcard recipient Li Zhe 7-6 (5), 6-2.
“Every time I’m playing in China there are people cheering for me,” Wu said. “This means a lot for me. These are motivational forces for me.”
Third seed Juan Martin del Potro and fourth seed Alexander Zverev also scored wins on Wednesday.
Del Potro, who arrived in Shanghai straight-off of a finalist showing in Beijing, had to work overtime to secure his 7-5, 7-6 (7) win over Richard Gasquet.
The Frenchman looked in position to control the match as he led Del Potro 5-3 in the first set, and then 6-2 in the second set tiebreaker. In the end, however, Del Potro was able to close out the match with his ninth ace of the day.
Zverev was tested by Nikoloz Basilashvili, who happens to be the player who prevented Del Potro from scoring the Beijing trophy on Sunday. Although it was a formidable challenge Zverev won 7-5, 6-4.
“I played an opponent who has a lot of confidence,” Zverev said. “Obviously, he’s playing the best tennis of his life, winning in Beijing, and obviously he had a very good match yesterday (over Denis Shapovalov), as well.
“He knows how to play, definitely. Probably the hardest-hitting player I have ever played against.”
Zverev is here in Shanghai without the benefit of his coach, Ivan Lendl, being on-site. Lendl was in Beijing last week, but flew back to the United States to undergo wrist surgery.
“He’s in hospital right now,” Zverev said of Lendl. “He has wrist surgery. He had to fly back. He’ll be back in Europe, in London (for the year-end ATP Finals), for sure.
“That’s his golf. He’s playing too much,” Zverev added.
Thursday’s round-of-16 encounters features an intriguing battle between seventh seed Kevin Anderson of South Africa and 10th seed Stefanos Tsitsipas of Greece.
It would be fair to call Kevin Anderson a late-bloomer in terms of his more impressive success on the tour.
Since he joined the 30-something set, the 32-year-old Anderson’s appeared in his only two Grand Slam finals – at the 2017 U.S. Open and Wimbledon this year.
In contrast to Anderson, his opponent just left his teen years behind in August and is a virtual newcomer to the ATP Tour has jumped from being ranked No. 91 at the beginning of the year to currently enjoying a career-high No. 15 ranking.
While nothing is a guarantee, the winner between the Anderson-Tsitsipas match could likely face Novak Djokovic in Friday’s quarterfinal. But that scenario will require the second-seeded Djokovic to turn back 16th-seeded Marco Cecchinato of Italy in another scheduled match on Thursday.