Find me a better 90 minutes of tennis from Roger Federer the last few years than what we saw today from the Swiss! Earlier, the 33-year-old Federer turned back time in an emphatic 6-4, 6-4 triumph over top seed Novak Djokovic to reach the Shanghai title match.
“It was a great match, I agree,” said Federer who had to save five matchpoints in his Wednesday opener. “I think I played very well. There was nothing in the game today that wasn’t working. I think it was a high-level match. I’m unbelievably happy with the way it went.
“I look forward to the big occasions,” he said. “Doesn’t matter where it is in the world because there’s always a lot on the line, it’s a good story. It was the same again tonight.”
What struck me was not at how at ease Federer was at the net, or how well he served, but rather how often it seemed Federer was just standing in the center of the court, pushing Djokovic from side to side, dictating play. I didn’t think he could do that to someone like Novak.
“I think I did not play too bad,” said Djokovic. “It’s just that he played everything he wanted to play. He played the perfect match. I think he’s going to tell you how he felt, but that’s how I felt he played. He played an amazing match.”
Federer broke early in both sets and apart from some harrowing moments late in the second, it was all Federer on this day. The win ends Djokovic dominance in China – he had won 28 straight in the country – and it puts Federer in position to win his 81st career title, 23rd Masters event and first in Shanghai.
He also leads Djokovic 3-2 this year. Think about that for a second, six years older Federer has the head-to-head lead over the World No. 1. That’s remarkable.
And Djokovic, who could have all but wrapped up the No. 1 ranking this weekend, now has Federer right in his rearview and gaining ground rapidly for that top spot.
As I said earlier this week, the new baby could force Djokovic out of Paris or London or even both (it’s possible this could end up being Djokovic’s last match of the season)! And with 3,000 points (not including Davis Cup) still available for Federer’s taking, Djokovic’s lead is no longer safe, however Gilles Simon can offer some help tomorrow.
Simon is back in form after taking out Feliciano Lopez 6-2, 7-6 to reach his second career Masters final.
“I just know that I can do it,” said Simon who lost to Andy Murray in the 2008 Madrid Masters final. “When I’m playing good, I can play at [his] level. This I’m not worried about. The question is whether I will be able to do it tomorrow. I just know now more about the top guys, about how it’s going to be tomorrow. It’s not new anymore. I just hope it will help me to play a great match.”
Simon is an extremely tricky player. He doesn’t necessarily have a big shot, but he hits with length and really absorbs pace about as well as anyone. And he’s beaten Federer twice before, though Roger leads 4-2.
So I’ll go with the hot guy here. Too much at stake for Federer to let this chance slip while Simon has to feel some satisfaction reaching this far.
“I’m not going to come into the match and play terrible,” said Federer. “It just won’t happen – not in the finals, not against Simon. That’s the confidence I have right now.”
Federer talked about his confidence at the start of the week. He wasn’t joking.
Tennis Channel will have the Federer-Simon final live at 4:30am ET. Set your alarms accordingly.
SUNDAY SHANGHAI SCHEDULE
STADIUM start 1:00 pm
 B Bryan (USA) / M Bryan (USA) vs  J Benneteau (FRA) / E Roger-Vasselin (FRA)
 R Federer (SUI) vs G Simon (FRA)
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