Federer hails his Shanghai masterclass
Roger Federer's fantasy season continued yesterday as he beat Rafael Nadal 6-4, 6-3 to lift the Shanghai Masters trophy.
After the match, Federer was asked what had helped him win his last five meetings against his old nemesis. He smiled and replied: "Not playing him on clay."
Yesterday's match was staged on one of the quicker courts in world tennis, which usually works to Federer's advantage.
He leapt out to an early lead, breaking Nadal in the opening game and then maintaining such a punishing rhythm that he dropped only eight points on his own serve throughout.
"I played a great match today with hardly any mistakes," said Federer.
"It was very clear for me how I had to play and I was able to do it for the one hour and 12 minutes that I was out there. I started perfectly and kept the pressure on."
The head-to-head between the two legends still stands comfortably in favour of Nadal, who has won 23 of their 38 meetings. However, after his triumphant 2017, Federer now has the advantage on hard courts (11-9) and grass (2-1).
It is only on the red clay of continental Europe that he has taken a beating, with 13 defeats and just two victories against the greatest clay specialist of this or any other age.
With another month of the season still to go, Federer has already won six titles in 2017 from seven appearances in finals. His ruthlessness is not far short of the extraordinary period, running from July 2003 to Nov 2005, when he played 24 finals and won the lot.
Federer's victory means that the year-end No 1 ranking is not quite tied up after all.
Nadal leads his old rival by almost 2,000 points, but either can collect 1,500 via a clean sweep at the Nitto ATP Finals at London's O2 Arena. Federer is also entered into Basle (500 points) and Paris (1,000), although it would hardly be a surprise if he skipped the latter to make sure he comes to London in the best possible physical condition.
"I am actually surprised that I have won here," said Federer. "With all that has happened since Montreal with my back (which he tweaked in the final there against Alexander Zverev, thus impairing his preparations for the US Open) it is just nice to see that I am back again.
"London is my priority now and I really want to win the World Tour Finals. I am very excited to have had the year that I have had and everything that comes from here is a bonus.
"Finishing the year as No 1 is a long shot, and I don't think it will happen. But if I play like this, who knows?"
Meanwhile, Maria Sharapova claimed her first WTA title since May 2015 - and her 36th in all - thanks to a hard-earned 7-5, 7-6 win over Aryna Sabalenka in the Tianjin final.
Sharapova only beat one Top 50 player on her way to the trophy - world No 25 Shuai Peng -but she herself will climb from just outside the Top 100 to No 57 as a result of her success.
Sharapova posted a tweet after her victory yesterday. It depicted her holding up the Tianjin trophy in front of a group of fans, and came accompanied by the words: "#36 I will always remember you."
She will now head to her home nation of Russia for the Kremlin Cup in Moscow, where she has been drawn to face Wimbledon semi-finalist Magdalena Rybarikova in the opening round. (© Daily Telegraph, London)