Roger Federer kisses the trophy after beating Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-3 in the Shanghai Rolex Masters final at the Qizhong Tennis Center in suburban Minhang District yesterday. (Dong Jun)
Roger Federer needed just one hour and 12 minutes to beat world No. 1 Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-3 en route to his second Shanghai Rolex Masters title yesterday.
After eliminating Argentine Juan Martin del Potro in the semifinals a day earlier, the 19-time grand slam winner entered the final in steady form and ended up firing a total of 10 aces. He took advantage of a third break point on Nadal's opening service game with a backhand passing-shot winner, and broke Nadal in the fifth and final game of the second set to seal an emphatic victory.
It was the 36-year-old's sixth title of the year, and the Swiss ace did it by breaking his long-time rival's 16-game winning streak that included his China Open title triumph in Beijing last week.
"It's a wonderful comeback for me here, in a stadium for which I attended the launch ceremony," Federer said after the victory. "Neither Rafa nor I probably had thought of meeting on this court here in the final. I hope there is more to come."
It was also the fourth time this year that the Swiss world No. 2 had got the better of his Spanish rival. The previous victories were in the finals of the Australian Open and Miami Masters, and in the last 16 at Indian Wells. Nadal, however, still leads their overall record 23-15.
"I expected to struggle a bit in the early stages of the match since I had a late night (against del Potro in the semifinal). But the match turned out to be nice. I won't call it a day-dream, but things just happened, getting points after points. I started to feel relaxed, though I thought Rafa might come back any time. But I had a clear game plan and didn't give Rafa many chances on my serve. Actually I have been returning well since the very first match here. So it was not too surprising since I had a great weekend," said Federer, fondly known as "Cow" in China for his laid-back personality.
"Since changing my racquet, I have been connecting better on the backhand and serving good. And my returns were better than his. Also being able to stay on a hardcourt helped me to beat him," the Swiss added, though he said it was unlikely that he could catch Nadal in the year-end No. 1 standing. "I'm just happy to be able to play again and be ready, both physically and mentally."
The center court of Minhang District's Qizhong Tennis Center was fully packed with spectators eager to witness the two players' 38th meeting — surprisingly their first clash in a Chinese final. The Swiss' last win in Shanghai was in 2014, while the last time Nadal made it to the final was in the 2009 inaugural event where he lost to Nikolay Davydenko of Russia.
"It was a fast match. He served huge and performed very well," Nadal praised his opponent after the match. "It was not the best match for me; there is room for improvement. Roger had a great year. When you come back from injury, you manage to win, that's what made the difference."
"It has also been a great week for me after winning the China Open in Beijing and the runner-up in Shanghai.
"After a long hard year, to be able to reach the current stage is a happy thing for me. The Asian tournaments have been satisfying," added the Mallorcan.
The 2017 Shanghai crown was Federer's 94th career title, and he is now level with Czech great Ivan Lendl for second place in the Open era, behind American legend Jimmy Connors.
Federer said he would fly back to Switzerland today and figure out the schedule for the rest of the season with his team.