It seems only fitting that second seed Novak Djokovic and fourth seed Alexander Zverev, who both reached the Rolex Shanghai Masters semifinal without dropping a set, will face each other on Saturday for a berth in Sunday’s final.
Djokovic, always a fan favorite in Shanghai, is very familiar with being in the latter stages of this tournament. In fact, Djokovic owns an impressive 30-4 winning record in Shanghai and has won the title three times in the past. This is his eighth semifinal at the Rolex Shanghai Masters.
This marks Zverev’s third consecutive appearance in Shanghai and the first time he’s advanced beyond the third-round.
Djokovic earned his spot in the semifinals by ousting seventh seed Kevin Anderson 7-6 (1), 6-3 in the quarterfinals on Friday. This was the second match the two played this year with Djokovic also beating Anderson in the Wimbledon final.
Anderson was not without his chances to make a statement in the quarterfinals. He held a set point on Djokovic’s serve in the 12th game of the first set, but surrendered the opportunity by sailing a forehand crosscourt wide. From that point on the match was Djokovic’s to win.
Zverev moved into the semifinals courtesy of a 6-4, 6-4 win over 11th seed Kyle Edmund. The win came with two important stepping stones for Zverev.
Firstly, Zverev guaranteed himself a second consecutive spot in the upcoming ATP Finals in London with the victory. Secondly, the win offered the bragging rights of being the player who owns the most match wins of the year with 49.
“Obviously it’s great to finally officially make it (the ATP Finals) and obviously be part of the eight best again, which is an elite group, which is kind of the goal for everyone at the beginning of the season,” Zverev said.
“That’s (winning 49 matches) also, obviously, a great honor because we have so many great players playing throughout the whole year, and obviously me winning the most matches means a lot to me,” Zverev added. “It means a lot, because I have kind of played only the biggest tournaments.”
The other semifinal will be contested between defending champion Roger Federer and 13th seed Borna Coric. Federer is hoping to win a third Shanghai title, while Coric would like to reach his first Shanghai final.
“He’s really improved his game, stepping up into the court, goes for his shots more than he used to,” Federer said of Coric. “He good in defense now, he has a transition game now, and a solid serve. I’ve always played him when he’s playing well, but I’ll hope I can take it to him.”
Federer posted his first straight-set victory of the tournament with a 6-4, 7-6 (4) win over eighth seed Kei Nishikori, while Coric defeated Matthew Ebden of Australia 7-5 6-4
Federer served up ten aces and a mighty 71% first serve percentage in the quarterfinal. Nevertheless, he did face a test from Nishikori in the second set, who rebounded from losing his serve in the first game of that set to push Federer to the tiebreaker. Nishikori actually led 4-1 in the tiebreaker but wasn’t able to force a third set.
“All three of my matches went the same length basically, an hour and 52,” Federer said. “So, you see two sets sometimes doesn’t tell the truth.
“I was happy to get out in two,” he added. “I somehow got it done. I think I can be very happy with my level of play this week.”
While Federer won their semifinal outing at Indian Wells this year, Coric did score the huge upset over Federer, on grass, at the Halle tournament in June.
“It’s been a very good tournament for me,” Coric said after reaching the semifinals. “I’m playing some of my best tennis, especially against Stan (Wawrinka in the first round) and (Juan Martin) Del Potro yesterday before he got injured yesterday.”
As for playing Federer in the semifinal, Coric said, “Against Roger, we had two very good matches this year and I won one, so I was very, very happy about that, for sure.”