Shanghai Preview
by Abe Kuijl | November 11th, 2007, 11:19 pm

When David Nalbandian moved up to the ninth position in the ATP rankings after winning the Masters Series events in Madrid and Paris, he became the first alternate for the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai. However, after he learned from Andy Roddick and Nikolay Davydenko that they were not thinking about pulling out of the event, the Argentine decided to stay home and leave the $50,000 appearance fee for Tommy Robredo, who has taken his place. But, there are two alternate players for the Masters Cup, so 11th-ranked Andy Murray was also offered the $50k all-inclusive package trip to China. He declined. So did Tommy Haas. And James Blake. And Tomas Berdych. And the five players ranked below the Czech. So the second alternate player for the TMC is… Juan Ignacio Chela! And if you think that is crazy, if the Argentine would have passed on the offer, Ivo Karlovic would have likely taken the slot. Scary.

Red Group

Now let’s focus on those in action. One of the Bryan brothers, I believe it was Mike, recently said Andy Roddick’s chances of playing in Shanghai were only about 50%. Well, it seems Roddick can put Davis Cup out of his mind for the next week because he arrived on schedule in China on Thursday. Roddick finds himself in the red group, along with Fernando Gonzalez, Nikolay Davydenko, and Roger Federer, whom he held three match points against in their round robin match last year. After Roddick failed to win a set against Federer at the US Open, in what was possibly the best performance I have ever seen from the Texan, his chances to upset the Swiss this time around are looking slimmer than ever.

Davydenko is the longshot in this group with the form he is in, so the key match will probably be between Roddick and Gonzalez for second place. Gonzalez has been playing some better tennis again recently after a mediocre post-Aussie Open season, and given the lack of matches Roddick has played after the US Open, this could go either way. I’ll take the Rod to edge through.

Semifinalists: Roger Federer, Andy Roddick Yellow Group

While the second group seems to be pretty much equally strong as the first, there are certainly more scenarios available with Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, David Ferrer and Richard Gasquet put together. Nadal has gained some confidence after reaching the final of the Paris Masters Series event, but I’m still not impressed by the way Rafa is playing. Djokovic was clearly conserving energy in Paris by the way he went down to Fabrice Santoro, and he’ll surely want to end his season on a high note. Djokovic has beaten Nadal in straight sets on hard court in their last two matches, and I’m favoring the Serb to come through in Shanghai as well.

I don’t think Gasquet will be able to take down Rafa, but Ferrer has recently done so at the US Open. Ferrer will certainly be a threat to Nadal, but coming off a solid week in Paris, I’ll stick with the No. 2 to advance.

Semifinalists: Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal

Federer – Nadal and Roddick – Djokovic. Would these be two semifinals to watch or what? Either match could go either way, and that hasn’t always been the case during the closing stages of major ATP events over the past years.

Nadal and Federer haven’t faced each other after their legendary match at Wimbledon, where the Spaniard came within touching distance of winning his first non-clay court Slam and unofficially claiming the No. 1 ranking.

Federer has again shown signs that he is no longer invincible by going down in two consecutive tournaments to Nalbandian, but Nadal has been far from dominant after Wimbledon, so a similar scenario to last year, when Federer also beat Nadal in the semis in Shanghai, is seemingly likely.

Djokovic and Roddick only faced each other once, in Montreal earlier this year. Back then it was the Serb who straight-setted Roddick en route to his memorable title run that included wins over Nadal and Federer in the final. Djokovic is more all-round than Roddick and he is fully committed to the event. The Rod will undoubtedly give it his best, but in the back of his head he is just warming up for the Davis Cup final in Portland.

Finalists: Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic

In the US Open final, Djokovic lost in three sets to Federer, but the whole match was decided on just a handful of points. What became clear in New York, and what Djokovic had already shown in Montreal, is that he can keep up with Federer during the rallies, and actually appears to be the more dominant player from the backcourt most of the time. The Djoker will be a legitimate contender at the Slams next year, but after a long breakthrough season, winning a best-of-five final over the Fed might be too much to ask.

Winner: Roger Federer

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14 Comments for Shanghai Preview

Giner Says:

LOL @ alternate places. It would have been fun to see Karlovic in shanghai. What’s interesting is that it used to be only one alt, not two. I guess the debut year in Shanghai where 5 or 6 qualifiers pulled out sparked a change in the rules.

About the yellow group, I put more faith in Nadal than Djoko right now. Nadal won his first match, while Djoko lost his. It’s hard to see Djoko finishing first in that group now. Though I do agree that Ferrer could upset Nadal. Djoko might have hit a bad streak of form.

Henin Says:

Like Sharapova in YEC, Roddick has come to TMC with full of doubts. Nobody’s actually counting on ARod and he’ll feel no pressure at all. He may well be fired up, since he’s not been played lots lately.

Gonzo is still struggling and i don’t see him winning a match here. Davydenko is a tough man but i think Fed and Rod will make it to the semis from Red.

In the Gold ( not yellow Abe=P) i’m going for Nadal and Ferrer. Ferrer has taken down Nole and that makes him the fav to head into the semis alongside with his compatriot. Seems like Gasquet still can not believe he’s actually in the Masters.(In fact that’s his main problem; he still thinks he’s a junior, occasionally taking part in the main tour, a hot prospect… Baby Fed you better grow up fast, you’re getting to 22!)

A Nadal – Roddick semifinal will be mouthwatering to wach and then whoever wins will battle it out for the title against Fed.


zola Says:

I like your analysis.

and congratulations for winning the YEC championship against Sharapova today! (lol:))

grendel Says:

Gonzo ain’t struggling no more! I do hope he gives it to Roddick and Davy too, and doesn’t just prove a one shot wonder.

There must now be some doubt as to whether Fed will even qualify, which is fine. It is unfair to him (think of the burden of expectation) just to assume he can waltz into the final. Those days, anyway, are now clearly over. He’s still the favourite to get to the semis, and Fed fans should be pleased with that.

The question of #1 spot now looms up again. If Nadal wins overall, without losing a roundrobin match, and wins AO – does he get #1, or does it depend on Fed losing in an early round in AO? Of course Nadal is very unlikely to win both tournaments, and not particularly likely to win one – even so, these are interesting times….

sensationalsafin Says:

Ok, I’m done messing around. Federer’s dominance is over.

Skorocel Says:

Well, that surely wasn’t the start both Fed and his fans (including me) hoped for… Strange, though, Fed didn’t play a bad match today! Of course, 37 UEs isn’t particularly a pleasant number, but I’ve seen him playing MUCH worse in 2007 – and he still WON those matches (for instance vs Seppi in Monte Carlo, or vs Pless in Dubai)… Of course, Gonzo is a different opponent, and today, he really played some terrific tennis (especially at those BPs in the 3rd). Got a bit lucky when one of his shots caught the line at 1-0 in that 2nd set breaker + when Fed hit a 100 % winning smash straight into his racket in the following rally, but anyway, he WAS the better player today and fully deserves the W!

P.S. Don’t know why so many of you consider this year’s Wimby final a “legendary” or whatsoever-one? Yes, it was a pretty thrilling 5 setter, but I guess the Rome final in 2006 is CLEARLY their best match so far…

jane Says:

Gonza (of AO days) is back; Gonzo (of this summer) is gone!

37 UFE for Fed, but Gonza had as (or near as) many; same with winners; they were on par there statistically too. Gonza simply played a phenomenal match. Forehands like bullets…eyes like an eagle’s – he was playing so well today.

Fed wasn’t struggling too much on his service games though, so that bodes well for him in future matches. It’s not like he played too badly. Gonza just found his peak today (or could he get even better?)

Anti-Federer Says:

Federer winning? Again? He’s no longer entertaining. How many times can we watch the same movie, regardless whether it is Godfather? He is already boring; he is no longer evolving. He is aging, devolving in skills. If he makes it to the semi, he should be happy with that. If he wins the Cup, it is unfortunate, and, in that case, I will take a vow not to watch any of the matches he plays in 2008. After watching Gonzo beat him, I hope he will extend his losing streak and make me happy.
As far as the winner is concerned, I am clueless. At this point, I cannot rule anyone out.

Giner Says:

Aren’t people overreacting about Federer? People talk about him slipping and all, but reality is, he’s still locked up the #1 position for the year, and managed to win 27/28 grand slam matches (3 slams and a runner up position!).

What’s next? Is he going to drop out of the top 10 by the end of next year?

jane Says:

Sounds like Federer agrees with you, Giner, for while he gave full credit to Gonza in his interview for playing fantasic shots, he also says he’s not too worried about the loss in the grand scheme of things. This is the part of his interview that mirrors your thoughts (excerpted from an online article):

“It’s tough to lose a first one, but I’m not going to get too down on myself right now.

“It’s not that easy to keep up the pace I have the last few years – let’s not forget how great they were.

“I defended my number one title and won three Grand Slams. I don’t need to sing a song, but it’s been another fantastic season.”

Henin Says:

Great win for Gonzo, he’s one of the crowd-pleasers, a crazy bull with a huge forehand and i was hoping for a much better season from him after his breakthru in AO but he couldn’t keep it up.

He’s one of the players who has reached at least the QF stage of all 4 slams, he’s got a good package in his artillery to play well in all kind of surfaces; maybe the most powerful forehand of the circuit, pretty useful one-handed backhand, big serve, he can use the slice in both wings nicely, maybe one of the few players using the forehand slice, effective shot in defense and for changing up the pace, not that bad in footwork and quick indeed… + Larry Stefanki !

Maybe for the sake of Stefanki’s recommendation, he was not taking so many chances with his top-spin backhand lately, slicing all the time like Graf but he unleashed great backhands against Fed and that adds another dimension to his game obviously.

He was off the rails after AO most of the time this season and he did come to TMC as short in confidence but maybe that helped a bit. Starting off against Fed, no pressure no expectations…

His tournament begins right now, all eyes will be on him after this win, pressure will be on and on the other hand he’ll be confident as hell, maybe overconfident… will be pretty interesting to see how he’s gonna handle the situation.

Henin Says:

As for Federer, i guess this is something expectable… He’s gonna finish the year as no:1 for the 4th consecutive season and what he has done during this 4 year is just out of this world. All those slams, all those records…unbelievable without a shade of doubt.

But this is a level almost impossible to maintain for a long period of time. And i still can’t believe how he kept it up for the last 4 years, just amazing stuff.
This season he got some strange losses and slightly come off the boil a little bit as the season’s ending and this will be very useful for him to bounce back next year. He’ll be motivated, as if he’s starting off his career again. Also he’s considering getting a coach soon, which i think is vital in so many ways. I’m sure this sour losses will accelerate the process. And i’m almost sure he’ll have someone good in his box in AO 08…

Next year he’ll give his all for RG title, he knows every year it gets a bit more difficult hence the clay season is very demanding on the physical aspect and he truly knows he may not be as lucky as Agassi got, getting to the final in 29 years of age, finding a Medveded and turning the match after a rain interval as 0-2 down… Sounds like a film scenario nowadays.

So, i believe Fed hasn’t finished yet.

Giner Says:

I agree that Agassi’s win was a fairy tale story, the stuff of movies. You can’t ask for a more fitting opponent, yet to still go down 6-1 6-2 and need to be saved by a rain delay (and your coach) says a lot for luck. Still I wouldn’t go as far as saying Agassi was a fluke at RG. He was runner up a few times, so he knows how to play on the red stuff.

Fed is unlikely to be so lucky. The clay courters in this generation are better than they were in Agassi’s generation, plus they are younger than Fed. Nadal has a perfect record at RG, and in only 3 visits he’s already matched Guga for titles. Next year he’ll surpass him, and be considered a greater clay court player than Guga.

Good luck Henin. I hope you win Wimbledon next year. It was all yours to lose this year, shame really. But at least you got the best revenge possible against Marion.

Shanghaiist : Favorites fall at the Shanghai Masters Cup Says:

[…] Nalbandian made shockwaves just prior to the start the Masters Cup in Shanghai by defeating Nadal, Djokovic, and Federer (the top three players in the world) to win the second to last qualifying event for the Masters Cup in Madrid. Nalbandian then moved on to the last qualifying even in Paris, and repeated his success in Madrid by winning the event. Along the way, he again beat Federer in the Round of 16, and then moved on to beat Nadal in the final. As the first alternate, Nalbandian was asked to come to Shanghai in case of an injury or withdrawal of one of the main qualifiers. However, he turned that down the free flight, including the $50,000 appearance fee. […]

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