Another battling Federer victory
ROGER Federer put his local supporters through the wire again yesterday before battling through his second match at this year’s Rolex Shanghai Masters, beating Roberto Bautista Agut 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 to advance to the quarterfinals.
On paper it looked to be an easier match for the defending champion compared to his clash on Wednesday against Russia’s Daniil Medvedev. And so it seemed as the Swiss needed less than half-an-hour to take the first set 6-3.
However, the Spaniard reacted strongly in the second set, breaking his opponent twice to take a 4-1 lead before claiming the second set 6-2.
Bautista Agut then showed great spirit and determination and made Federer supporters sweat when taking a 4-3 lead in the deciding set.
But the crowd favorite hit back, leveled and managed to break his opponent in the crucial ninth game for a 5-4 lead. He then lit up the arena when sealing victory with the first of his three match points in his next service game.
“We had some tough rallies from the baseline, like expected, and that’s where Roberto can be very good,” said Federer, who faces Japan’s eighth-seeded Kei Nishikori in the next round. “With course conditions in Shanghai, especially when it’s cool, the ball feels heavy, hard and it’s sometimes hard to generate as much as you would like and it’s hard to outmaneuver the player.
“I’m happy because of my match yesterday, I was able to stay more calm even this time and come up with a really good game to break at 4-4 and then serve it out was great.”
The 20-time Grand Slam champion has been hailed by Shanghai fans and organizers as ‘a ticket box guarantee.’ Tickets for the latter part of the Shanghai tournament are usually sold out weeks in advance if the Swiss confirms his participation.
The Center Court of Qizhong Tennis Center was over 80 percent full yesterday and Wednesday‚ which is incredible given both are normal working days and the center is not very convenient to reach with no Metro service close by.
Federer also expressed his gratefulness to the support received every time he has played in Shanghai.
“You very rarely get a chance to see a group of guys getting together like this, sitting in a row, and a few rows up, holding up massive banners,” the 37-year-old said.
“It’s not what tennis usually is about. It’s splintered groups all around the stadium. I feel like that’s very unique here in Shanghai. They devote their time and creativity, almost like a football fan, to support me.”
Third-seeded Juan Martin del Potro had to retire from his match against Croatian Borna Coric after the first set due to a knee injury. The Argentine slipped and injured his right knee while tied at 5-5 in the first set. Del Potro, obviously affected by the injury, was broken in the next game and lost the set 7-5 before deciding that he could no longer carry on playing.
Coric, seeded 13, will take on Australia’s unseeded Matthew Ebden in the quarterfinals today.
In an earlier match, second seed Novak Djokovic took his revenge after beating Italy’s Marco Cecchinato 6-4, 6-0 for a slot in the quarterfinals.
The only other time the Serb has played Cecchinato was a quarterfinal clash at the French Open when the latter won in four sets.
“The second set was perfect. I’m really glad to be able to finish the match the way I did,” Djokovic said. “In the beginning I was a bit tense, because I missed a lot of break-point opportunities in the first three of his service games. But then that crucial break in the seventh game of the first set gave me a little bit more of a relief and allowed me to swing through the ball better.”
The three-time Rolex Shanghai Masters winner will next take on South African Kevin Anderson for a spot in the last four. Anderson overcame Stefanos Tsitsipas from Greece 6-4, 7-6 (1) to reach the quarterfinals.
Fourth-seeded Alexander Zverev from Germany also entered the last eight by beating Alex de Minaur from Australia 6-1, 6-4. He will take on Kyle Edmund from Britain who ousted Nicolas Jarry from Chile 7-6 (5), 6-3.
Roger Federer returns against Roberto Bautista Agut yesterday during their men’s third round Shanghai Masters match at Qizhong Tennis Center. — AFP