I went against Roger Federer, and I lost. Credit to Roger, he played too good earlier today in a convincing 7-5, 6-4 win over Novak Djokovic to advance to the Tennis Masters Shanghai final.
Federer and Djokovic were on even terms early on, and Djokovic had some chances but went 0-for-4 on break opportunities in the first set. Federer, got control converting the second of his two opening set chances to break at 5-5 and then serve it out for 7-5.
In the second set, Federer kept the momentum by quickly going up two breaks to all but ice the match. Novak battled reclaiming a break back but it was too little, too late.
“I think first set could have gone either way today,” said Federer. “It was really an open battle. I got the better of him at the end of the first set. I think for 10 minutes he was a bit out of it and I was able to take advantage of that. I think that cost him the match looking back because, of course, he was playing a bit more relaxed at one point which made him somewhat more dangerous.”
Said Djokovic, “The start of the second set, I lost my focus a little bit, my energy dropped. Yeah, in a blink of the eye, I was two breaks down with 4 1. So it was very hard to get back from that situation. Yeah, I’m just disappointed a little bit because I think I’ve played quite well in the first set. He played some great shots when he needed to. So, you know, he deserved to win.”
I thought Novak came in as the hotter player but in the end Federer proved (again) that he’s the better player.
“I think I’m playing really well,” Federer said. “I’ve had a great buildup. Here I’m playing well right off the bat. Then again, like I said, the season is still long. After this, I have four more tournaments to play. I’ll take straight sets any day and I’m happy the way I’m hitting the ball.”
I know many critics have shoveled dirt on Roger and declared him dead, especially at 29. But the fact that he took a month off and was still able to produce the tennis he did today is pretty remarkable.
In the final, Federer will have revenge as motivation again vs. Andy Murray. It was in the summer when Murray beat Federer 7-5, 7-5 in the Toronto final.
Murray, like Federer, has looked great all week and has not dropped a set after a cozy 6-4, 6-1 win over Juan Monaco.
“I think each match I felt better,” Murray said. “The court, this is a court or a surface for me that is very good. You know, the ball bounces relatively high. I feel like I move well on these courts and I can still get my serve through the court to get enough free points.
No, it’s just a good surface for me. But, yeah, it had been a couple tough weeks, last week in Beijing. Sort of getting ready for Beijing was tricky. But, yeah, it’s probably a better result than I expected at the start of the week.”
Overall, Murray leads Federer 7-5 in their head-to-head. Murray won their last meeting in Toronto but Federer has won three of their last four meetings and holds the edge in tournament finals 3-1.
Federer is seeking his 64th career title, which would tie him with Pete Sampras, and a Rafael Nadal-equaling 18th Masters win. Murray is eying a 16th career victory and at sixth Masters crown. The Scot has a very impressive 5-1 record in Masters finals.
As for a pick, this final is pretty even. Both players enter the championship match in form and playing well. And while Federer has the edge in finals against Murray, Shanghai won’t carry the same weight and pressure for a guy like Murray as a Slam final does, so that should allow Andy play more freely.
But based on his performance today in his stellar win over Novak, I have to go with Federer. I get the sense that he’s out to prove that he’s not done winning important titles. Not yet, anyway.
The match is on live at 4:30am on the Tennis Channel for you East coast night owls.
SUNDAY SHANGHAI SCHEDULE
STADIUM start 2:00 pm
 J Melzer (AUT) / L Paes (IND) vs  M Fyrstenberg (POL) / M Matkowski (POL) – DOUBLES FINAL
Not Before 4:30 PM
 A Murray (GBR) vs  R Federer (SUI) – SINGLES FINAL
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