Outside of Rafael Nadal’s failing appendix – more on that in a bit – and the Race, the big story for me this week in Shanghai is the return of Roger Federer and his duel with Novak Djokovic for the top ranking. Unfortunately for Federer fans, Djokovic, who’s about 1,600 points ahead of Federer, could put the No. 1 race on ice if he comes away with the title on Sunday.
And by the looks of it, Djokovic is the clear favorite to do just that. Tomorrow, Djokovic, a tough 3-set winner today over Kukushkin, will face David Ferrer in the quarterfinals (Novak leads 12-5 winning 6 straight). Ferrer stopped Andy Murray in three sets 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 in a crushing defeat for the Scot’s London hopes.
“He barely missed a ball for about a set and a half,” said Murray. “I couldn’t find a way around him. He played just great tennis, especially the last set and a half.
“We’ll see over the next few days where I decide to go. Hopefully I can play well the last couple of tournaments, [to] try and make a push for London.”
Ferrer will move ahead of Murray in the Race, and if he were to somehow beat Djokovic and go further in the event that could spell more trouble for Andy. The only saving grace for Murray is Nadal’s dealing with an appendix which I think will ultimately force him out of London.
I respect Nadal’s fighting ability and willingness to lay it all out there, especially after already missing so much time, but I don’t think he’ll carry on with his fall schedule. Why risk it? He’s already qualified for London, No. 1 hopes have faded and if he gets it removed now perhaps he can make it back for London.
My guess is we’ll hear more from Nadal on this in the next 24 hours once he talks to his medical team in Spain.
With Nadal out and several other upsets including Stan Wawrinka, Marin Cilic and Milos Raonic, Tomas Berdych is the class of the bottom half of the draw. He’ll play Gilles Simon. In the other quarter, Feliciano Lopez, who benefited from Nadal’s appendicitis, meets Mikhail Youzhny.
Obviously Berdych is the favorite in that half to make the final, but Simon could surprise. He’s beaten Berdych in five of their eight meetings.
As for Federer, he was right in saying he got lucky against Leonardo Mayer, saving those five matchpoints. Today, it was a much more efficient, drama-free win over a stronger player in Roberto Bautista Agut. And next is Julien Benneteau who can be dangerous but often falls flat on the big stage.
“I think I definitely played better,” said Federer. “I had a better understanding of how the balls are reacting, the court is playing, and just conditions in general at night.
“I definitely think he let me play a bit more from the baseline, whereas Mayer really took big cuts at the ball which made it really difficult for me to control the back of the court. I think I was just overall striking the ball better. I’m glad I got a straight set win tonight.”
Looking at the London race, I’m already putting in Berdych, Nishikori and Cilic, so in my mind Murray, Dimitrov, Raonic and Ferrer are all fighting for that last spot. If Djokovic does take care of Ferrer as expected, I think Raonic, assuming he gets over the fever that forced him to retire, will be that guy to round out the field.
Tennis channel has complete coverage of the Friday Shanghai quarterfinals starting at 1am ET.
FRIDAY SHANGHAI SCHEDULE
STADIUM start 1:00 pm
 T Berdych (CZE) vs G Simon (FRA)
Not Before 3:00 pm
M Youzhny (RUS) vs F Lopez (ESP)
 N Djokovic (SRB) vs  D Ferrer (ESP)
Not Before 8:00 pm
 R Federer (SUI) vs J Benneteau (FRA)
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