With the exception of Rafael Nadal, the top players have been playing like top players should this week in Shanghai. Earlier today, Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray all reached the semifinals without the loss of a set and nary the loss of any sweat.
In very impressive fashion, Federer destroyed Robin Soderling 6-1, 6-1 handing the Swede one of his worst career losses. Federer, who is now 14-1 lifetime against Soderling, did just about everything except hit a tweener during the demolition.
“It’s a great match for me,” said Federer. “Surprising that it all went so fast. [It was] somewhat close in the beginning to get the 4-1 lead. I guess that was the hard work.
“After that, I was just able to roll away with the score. He started to struggle and it got more difficult. I know he didn’t have one of his best days.”
Federer now meets Djokovic in Saturday’s highly-anticipated semifinal. Djokovic won his 7th consecutive match and his 16th and 17th straight sets after hammering an in-stride Guillermo Garcia-Lopez 6-2, 6-3.
“[I] felt great on the court today,” said Djokovic. “Garcia Lopez has been playing some good tennis in last couple of weeks, beating Nadal in Bangkok.”
Murray also booked his semifinal berth with relative ease by ripping the returning JW Tsonga 6-2, 6-2.
“I played well today,” said Murray. “I’ve been pretty focused the last couple of matches. [I] got off to a good start, which is important against him [as] he’s a really good frontrunner. But he struggled a little bit on his serve. From my side, I served well [and] didn’t give him any chances. I was hitting the ball really clean from the back of the court.”
Murray now meets Juan Monaco who won for the fifth time in six tries against Jurgen Melzer 6-7, 7-5, 6-2. Melzer apparently had nothing left after his big win Thursday over Nadal, and if the Austrian has hopes of becoming a Top 10/Top 5 type of player that’s a match he has to win.
Looking ahead to Saturday, first I give Murray the big edge over Monaco. Their two prior meetings took place in 2009 and in those Murray won in Miami on hardcourts while the Argentine got him on the clay in Rome. Both matches went three sets so I expect another close affair, but Murray should prevail in this one. He’s just a better player than Monaco but if he tries to get too defensive Juan has the skill set to make him pay.
“I used to practice with him a lot in Spain,” Murray said. “Do we both know each other’s games well. It can be difficult playing someone you know, but it’s nice if you do get the chance.”
In the main event in the evening (thankfully morning in the East), Federer and Djokovic lock up for a 17th time. Federer leads 10-6 but since the start of 2009 it’s Djokovic holding a 4-3 edge. And Novak has to have the confidence of just having beaten Roger on the biggest stage in tennis at the US Open in a five-set epic.
“Tomorrow is going to be different, more difficult, a bit more tactical,” said Federer. “We’ve always had good matches against each other, especially on the hard courts. They’ve always been very even.”
The revenge-minded Federer has been playing extremely well this week, but so too has Djokovic leaving little to choose between them at this stage based on form. But I’ll give the minute, slight edge to Novak here. He beat Federer at the US Open, he won Beijing last week and hasn’t even had a hiccup or letdown in Shanghai since, so I’m going to stay with him to beat Federer in three sets.
That US Open match against Troicki when Novak was down two sets to one in the blazing sun really has been the turning point moment for the Serb. Djokovic’s been a different player and person since. Let’s see if he can keep it going.
Djokovic is also clearly playing the best tennis he’s played in who knows how long. Federer’s playing well, but he only has three matches since the US Open, all this week.
SATURDAY SHANGHAI SCHEDULE
STADIUM start 2:00 pm
 M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) vs  D Nestor (CAN) / N Zimonjic (SRB)
Not Before 4:30 PM
J Monaco (ARG) vs  A Murray (GBR)
Not Before 8:00 PM
 R Federer (SUI) vs  N Djokovic (SRB)
COURT 3 not before 5:30 PM
 B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) vs  J Melzer (AUT) / L Paes (IND) – Possible Court Change
Not Before 6:30 PM
 L Kubot (POL) / O Marach (AUT) vs  M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) or  D Nestor (CAN) / N Zimonjic (SRB)
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