Rafael Nadal may be No. 1 in the world, but not when it comes to playing Roger Federer this year.
The Swiss reinforced his GOAT status on Sunday by beating the Spaniard for the fifth consecutive time and fourth this year, 6-4, 6-3 in the final of the Shanghai Rolex Masters in China.
“I had no nerves really before the match, which was nice,” Federer said afterwards. “I was pretty clear about how I wanted to play the match. And then I came out and started off very well. Felt relaxed from then on. I always know that Rafa can come back at any moment if he connects well, picks the right sides, and does the right things.
“[My] serve only got better. I guess I saved the best for last. I played some good matches now against [Juan Martin] del Potro and also now these two sets. In a way, it’s not surprising, because I did feel good all week, and it does pay off to arrive early to an event. You can’t do it all the time, but I was here since Thursday late night and that’s five, six days to prepare for a Wednesday match. So I was ready.”
Federer didn’t face a breakpoint all match and in fact has held 31 straight times against Nadal, saving all 7 breakpoints.
The match only lasted 71 minutes as Federer improved to 10-1 against Top 10-ranked opponents this year, and secured a 700th career match victory.
The victory tied the 36-year-old with Ivan Lendl at 94 career titles, second only to Jimmy Connors’ 109, a record possibly in sight. It was Federer’s sixth title this year.
Federer is the only player who can stop Nadal from clinching a year-end No. 1 ranking, and is now within 1,960 points of the Spaniard.
In the second set some stunning shots, including a drop volley winner, earned Federer the break at 3-2, eventually riding out the win with aggressive play.
The 31-year-old Nadal was denied a 31st Masters-level title, which would have extended his record haul among all players dating to the emergence of Masters events in 1990.
“It was a very difficult match for me,” Nadal said. “He played very fast and he played well. I don’t know how many unforced errors he made. I could have done some things better, but that’s it. He just played too good. That’s my point of view. So congrats to him.”
The loss also ended Nadal’s 16 match win streak, but the Spaniard was still pleased with his week.
“I played a fantastic tournament, having very good wins,” Nadal said. “Very pleased the way I played the whole Asian tour for me. Beijing and Shanghai have been a very positive two weeks for me. A lot of points, a lot of victories against great opponents. I come back with very good personal satisfaction the way that I played.”
Nadal fell to 6-4 in finals this year, also coming up short in championships at the Australian Open (to Federer), Acapulco and Miami (Federer). He and Federer are now tied for the lead in titles this year, and Federer also narrowed the gap in the 2017 race for No. 1.
Nadal leads Federer by 1,960 points with Basel, Paris and the ATP Finals still ahead.
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