Dominating Federer restores order in Shanghai
by Abe Kuijl | November 18th, 2007, 11:17 pm

He was vulnerable in the Wimbledon final against Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic was on his heels in the US Open final and in recent weeks, he lost in consecutive events to David Nalbandian. When he started off the Tennis Masters Cup with a loss to Fernando Gonzalez, Roger Federer had to bounce back from two straight defeats for the first time in over four years time. Djokovic and Nadal were starting to become real challengers for the No. 1 position.

But Federer proved that despite his endless winning streaks, he doesn’t get shaken up by one or two losses, and he surely isn’t scared about the tougher competition he’s been getting over the past months. It’s true that Nadal hasn’t reached his best form after Wimbledon, but Federer steamrolled past the Spaniard in the semis, and he was never troubled by David Ferrer in Sunday’s final either. By defending his Tennis Masters Cup title in style to end the season, Federer sends a message to his rivals that he is still king of the courts, even though he wasn’t even close to playing to his best in more than a couple of events over the past year. In the end, all that matters are his three Grand Slam crowns, and another year-end championship title, which marks another outstanding season for the Swiss.

Against Ferrer, Federer was playing extremely dominant tennis in the first set. He was ripping his forehands and never offered his opponent the opportunity to get in a rhythm, by constantly mixing up his play and keeping the rallies short. Ferrer never got close to the form he had displayed throughout the event.

I was a little surprised however, that after Federer won the opening set, the No. 1 started to hold back some more on his forehand. This is why Ferrer got in to the match. Where Federer used his favorite wing to end rallies with one or two shots in the opening set, he was now taking some pace off, which for Ferrer meant he stayed in more rallies and got an extra split second to hit passing shots when Federer was moving forward. However, three horrendous misses at 3-4 cost him the break and consequently the second set. The Spaniard was up 30-15 on his own serve before he netted an easy backhand, missed a sitting backhand volley, and completely shanked a forehand to hand Federer the break. Federer served it out and ended the set winning the full 100% of points on his first serve.

With Federer up 6-2 6-3, the match was all but over. Federer broke serve at 2-1 in the third set with an outstanding running forehand passing shot, after Ferrer failed to put away a forehand volley. Federer ended the match with another break at 5-2, again passing Ferrer at net on his first match point.

I would say Federer played one of his best tournaments of the year in Shanghai, despite the unexpected loss to Gonzalez. Most of his matches were just plain solid, won without the utter brilliance that earned him so many fans during 2004 and 2005. But those days seem to be gone forever. The Roger Federer of 2007 has developed into a more conservative player, going for the smart play, instead of the out-of-this-world winners we remember so well from his early glory days. His footwork has deteriorated a little bit, which is why I don’t think he will ever triumph at Roland Garros. It’s also the reason why we’re seeing more ugly unforced errors from Federer nowadays.

Nevertheless, Federer will surely continue to be a dominate force on Tour over the next years. He will have to deal with increasing challenges from Nadal, Djokovic and probably Andy Murray for the No. 1 position, but for now though, the order has been restored.

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38 Comments for Dominating Federer restores order in Shanghai

Joe Says:

Agreed…except for the points about the footwork and winners. In my view, his anticipation has gotten even better over the last couple years allowing him to win more easily, thus giving the impression of slower footwork. As for winners, Federer’s performance in Shanghai is on par with his performance at the Australian in terms of total dominance using his lethal combination of consistency and blistering winners. Also, his net play was phenomenal – if this is a sign of things to come I fear for the other players. I think writers, such as the one who wrote this post, are increasingly nervous about constantly gushing over Federer. For less devout tennis fans, this storyline is getting a little old. As a result, the new storylines will increasingly focus on whether Federer is losing his edge, hitting less winners, etc. It’s the same thing the media does to Tiger Woods whenever he has a few bad results. It’s just annoying for the real fans that actually watch the tournaments. We all just need to sit back and enjoy every minute of this…it’s an absolute privilege to watch Federer’s matches live.

Tejuz Says:

yeah.. we have seen it come from this Author before.. whoz favourite player seems to be Djoker.

Well.. Agreed that this year Fed has played conservatively in some of the tournaments, but this Masters cup was on par with most of his earlier exploits in 2004, 2005 or 2006. The way he dismantled Roddick, Nadal.. his serve-volley has been phenomenal. Regarding his winners and Unforced errors.. if you look back at 2004 to 2006, he always has had his share of unforced errors in his matches. Its just that they being highlighted because he has lost a tad more matches this year. And anyway, unforced errors are always ugly … not awesome.. be it 2004 or 2007.

And what did u mean by more conservative player??? when u also say he is hitting more unforced errors??? I thought if he was conservative he would be making less UFEs.

张奔斗 Says:

I really can’t agree with your point that Federer’s footwork has deteriorated (presumably you meant with age) and therefore he can’t ever triumph at Roland Garros. Remember that Andre Agassi won the French Open at age 29? I think the “utter brilliance” we used to see more often in Fed’s earlier years was in large part due to a combination of freshness, a sense of exploration and excitement Fed himself was experiencing with his newly-found success in the tennis world. He was experimenting with himself more back then, just to see what he could be capable of. Now that Federer has firmly established himself, his current strategy seems to be one of minimum effort. He does not want to unduly over-exert himself; he just wants to win by the minimum margin. On the one hand, this is because he wants to preserve energy, avoid injury and extend his professional life; on the other hand, it is also because he does not need to prove himself to himself anymore (I believe Federer cared about proving himself to himself far more than to anyone else). The downside of the strategy of minimum margin, however, is that it is prone to error. Hence the two-tiebreaker loss to Djokovic in Canada, the losses to Nalbandian and the loss to Gonzalez. If those matches had happened in a Grand Slam, I believe Federer would have won them. His focus sharpens considerably, as we have seen in the last couple of matches in Shanghai, when the stakes are high.

Pardesi Says:

dude–you’re clearly snorting something if you think federer’s footwork has deteriorated! especially as that is the ONE thing that all the sports analysts have been remarking upon as being one of the strengths of his game– and that’s what keeps him ahead, and everything else that others have said. i do think you need to not share half-baked comments such as the ones above, if you don’t know what you’re talking about! i usually find your column smart, but this one was way off and a bit sloppy.

Lausanne Says:

Abe has been very partial to Nadal for a long time and it shows in his posts. Remembering his paper for Fed’s 5th wins at Wimbeldon, only discussing Nadal’s strengths, still hurts :(

Sadly, at one point in the future, all people announcing Roger’s end can only be right and will certainly claim praise for it…

max619 Says:

I think everyone contradicting the original poster about Fed’s footwork deteriorating have been very conclusive. I agree with them all…how can Fed’s footwork be deteriorating if he seemed to be even quicker than one of the quickest player on tour like David Ferrer is?
I think that Fed’s masterful footwork is what caused Ferrer to have less time to prepare for his own strokes. Fed’s footwork allow him to shorten the distances and thus the time it takes the ball to be returned and thus the time the opponent has to return.

I do agree with 张奔斗 regarding Fed’s current strategy to be one of minimum effort. This is what allows him to be almost injury free for the last 2 years, remember he was coming back from an injury in Master Cup 2005, one of the reasons Nalbandian was able to beat him in 5 sets in the final, not to take anything away from Nalby’s incredible victory.

As for the French Open, as long as Nadal’s knees hold it up I think it will be tough for Fed to beat the Spaniard on that type of surface.

Dee Says:

How silly. Yeah Roger played conservative and tight in some tournaments this year but he was seriously dominating in the Master championship once he got to Roddick like in ’04 or ’05. Never has Federer had a more lopsided victory over Nadal. Nadal had problems last year so you can’t contribute Nadal’s beatdown to his knees. I just smell hate.

Did you see that run Fed had over Ferrer….amazing.

SadSmiles Says:

I have seen that RF first %age gone up and it is scary when he is hitting > 70% first serve. He always has the placement and probably serving little harder as well…he knows he can hit harder but he has been conservative. Now it seem he is begining to earn lot more cheaper points on his serve which mean few more less rallys’s. Let me know your thoughts.

Abe Kuijl Says:

About the footwork: It’s true, there wasn’t much wrong with it in Shanghai. This is also why I have praised Federer in this article (is everyone just reading the last paragraph?).

In my reflection on Fed’s year, and the footwork argument: I’m sure nobody is arguing here that Fed played a lot of matches this season where he was way below par (for his standards). I noticed in virtually all of these matches that Fed was late getting to balls and often didn’t prepare well enough for his shots. He was frequently static on his returns as well. In other words, he was a little ‘slow’.

It’s crazy to believe I have something against Federer. The man is a living legend. But for all the great tennis he has shown in the past, Federer has hardly reached that level this year after playing a brilliant Australian Open. It’s not my job to keep singing one’s praises when I see that a player is playing below his level. That’s why to some of you I have been ‘overly critical’ on him.

Y Says:

Abe, isn’t remaining free from injury and fatigue until the end of the year an important part of what one should expect from a pro player? Fed is above everyone else there.

rogers twin sister Says:

Abe just doesn’t get it. We’re witnessing history, and he STILL doesn’t get it.

Pardesi Says:

“critical” is not the problem, abe. saying something of substance is! as for fed getting slower towards the end, bullocks! he just got outplayed by nalby, and gonzo, and admitted it himself.. besides, isn’t VARIETY the cornerstone of his game. you should learn to accept criticism as well, or else learn to play better tennis!!

max619 Says:

Abe, even if your assertion of Fed being a little slow is true, I think it is because Fed wants it to be that way when he wants it so that his body does not break down 6-8 months into the season. Look at Nadal and even Djok, they were clearly not in th best of shapes in the last MS events and in Shangai.
Bottom line, I think that Fed knows very well what he is doing, giving it all at the Slams and being a little “slow” during the rest of the tournaments.
Remember, a very fresh Nalbandian beat Fed/Djok/Nadal, we’ll see if Nalby can do that at the AO as well.

The question I have for you though is how come I never read that Nadal or Djok play under their level and it is always due instead to some kind of an injury they are nursing?

There is without a doubt a double standard in the critics made on this blog.

Liz Says:

Federer himself, when asked which bygone player he’d like to go against, said he was thinking more of future players. Now every single young guy who wants to be a top tennis pro is thinking “Can I beat the Fed”. I’m sure coaches are organizing “think tanks” to try to figure him out and see if he is beatable. It’s got to be a cottage industry in professional tennis. So far so good, he looks great but as he gets a little older, some new genius may appear to challenge him. He knows that. I think he is very smart to try to stay as healthy as possible by not overdoing his game and his schedule. Hoping for another 10.

FOT Says:

Wow! So many great comments. All I know is that when I watched that match with Ferrer (who the announcers were re-naming as ‘the mesquito’because he’s on you all the time and getting to every ball)… Roger made Ferrer look slow. So if that’s losing a step, I guess the other players on tour lost a marathon!

But seriously. I’m so glad Roger won this event because I was so tired of people proclaiming the end of his era and how eithe Nadal and/or Djokovic would even catch him in the #1 race THIS year! And how he’s having a down year because he lost 9 (yes, NINE) matches; etc.

Heck, how many other players would only like to lose 9 matches; win 3 of the 4 grand slams; make the final in the last 10 grand slams; make the French open final; win an ATP best 8 tournaments (even though he was down from his previous total); and win the Year-End? If just a normal person read his stats they would think he has had a fantastic year (which he has). But so many people measure him up against himself from the last 3 years and said he had an ‘off-year’. No, he still had a stellar year and ended it in style – just like the doctor ordered!

Here’s hoping we get to read the breaking of the grand slam record in 2008. I’m just so thankful I’m witnessing the Federer era and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it while it lasts.

tari Says:


Disclosure: I was a reader of this site and have been away for quite a while because of what I perceived as a hostile attitude toward Roger among the writers here.

That said, I decided to take a look at what this site had to say about Shanghai. Don’t know why, but here I am.

At first reading, your comment about Roger’s footwork having deteriorated, I initially did the eyeroll and left again…only to come back and read the comments, process it a bit more…including your comments here. Glad I did.

I think you may have chosen a better way to say that Roger’s footwork has been off. “Deteriorated” implies that it is something that is not likely to get better, no? I happen to agree that his footwork has been what I call “lazy” during many parts of this season. But this tournament was a whole different story.
I think it’s still there. Who knows why it now comes and goes…perhaps his motivation has something to do with it?

adrienne Says:

I don’t agree at all with Feds footwork deteriorating. And Fed WILL WIN the French because now he knows how to play Nadal. A true champion will figure out how to play a rival and I think he knows how now. He will most likely be able to beat him on any surface as long as he stays healthy. Nadal on the other hand will have to watch his own foot work, or rather Kneework to stay healthy. He already is all bandaged up with tapes on his knees. His style of playing will tax him in the long run.

grendel Says:

“And Fed WILL WIN the French because now he knows how to play Nadal..most likely be able to beat him on any surface”. This is surely wishful thinking – for the moment. The point is, as Zola, chief cheerleader for Nadal, points out, Nadal is just a different creature on clay. That’s not to say Fed, or more likely Nalbandian, can’t, under any circumstances, take him out in RG. Certainly Nadal has lost a little of that “aura” with Fed, and that’s important. But for the time being, Nadal is the better player on clay. It remains to be seen whether Fed can work out this particular puzzle. Personally, I haven’t the slightest idea, and that’s partly due to my ignorance, but also reflects my suspicion that Federer may well be up to the challenge. You shouldn’t underplay how amazing that will be, considering Nadal is almost universally, these days, regarded as the greatest clay courter in history.

sensationalsafin Says:

Federer’s footwork is great, no doubt. But in some of his losses his footwork was his greatest weakness. He was slow and late in getting to some shots and he seemed flat footed a lot more often. I don’t think this is really a physical thing, though. Flat footedness is basically laziness. But Federer isn’t lazy, I just think his mind has been wandering a bit too much this year.

That’s why his footwork is off at times, he’s just not in it completely and to have such sublime footwork requires a lot of focus and concentration. No matter how talented he is if he doesn’t make himself do the moving he’s not gonna do it. But clearly when he needed to play well and raise his game he did it and his footwork was there. I wouldn’t say it’s deteriorating, he’s just not as focused as he used to be.

But even if his footwork wasn’t as great, what does that have to do with the French? I mean really, you don’t need footwork on clay. You need to be fast and able to slide. His great footwork does not help him that much on the clay.

Nadal’s footwork isn’t that great. He hits so many shots off his back foot it’s not even funny. But he’s a beast on clay because he knows how to move on it. I think Federer says it’s been a great year for him because, other than the French, when he really cared he showed it and won the matches he wanted to win (the slams and TMC).

I guess he wasn’t lying when he said he gets over losses after about a day. He pretty much sees it as it is, 8 of his 9 losses do not in any way take away from his greatness and had he won those matches it would’ve just been a plus but it’s not the biggest deal to him.

He has what, 14 masters series? Does anyone doubt he won’t break Agassi’s record? Does anyone really care? Apparently not. But when he does people will praise him even more and it’ll just be a plus for him. He’s probably gonna say something like “It wasn’t one of my goals but having the record is a fantastic thing”. He’s just too great.

gr07 Says:

I think, Nadal is beatable on clay and so does any player including Fed on any surface. The difference between Fed and others are that others play the game, when they need to and Fed plays all the time. Fed has extremely high quality concentration and focus, which allows him to do other things easier. If some one wants win a game against Fed, that person should play the game from all angles without thinking about winning. The moment you start thinking about getting a win out of a point, the focus shifts from play to benefit. Just play the damn game…will get you..if not a win at least a great satisfaction..that’s what Andy Roddick did in U.S. Open.

tari Says:

You said what I was trying to say, only much, much better sensationalsafin!

ross Says:

yeah sure, Fed was certainly marginally below his superhuman level of 2006. But with three slams in one year, less than 10 losses, nearly 200 weeks at no 1 consecutive, all four slam finals, 5 masters series finals – he is still miles above Sampras’s BEST year. Sampras could never do even one of those, even in his peak years.

So ya, Fed is off his peak a bit. But he is still WAY above anybody else’s best in history.

gr07 Says:

No doubt Fed is the best ever. But I would still give credit to the depth that was there when Pete played. Pete had lot more high quality opponents than that exist today.

Tejuz Says:

gr07 – what do u mean when u say ‘others play the game when they need to’ .. we’ll others play the game only when they are in a roll and its not when they need to. Fed plays it all the time, and usually goes on a roll whenever he needs to. There is a difference here.

Do u think other players dont need to raise their game when they are playing a Grand Slam finals??? Well.. they certainly need to.. and they do.. but their max level is much below Fed’s

Tejuz Says:

gr07 – we have had endless arguements about the opponents that Fed and Sampras have faced. There are many threads on this blog dedicated to that.

Tejuz Says:

what do u mean by high-quality??? players who have won Grand-slam?? or players who serve-volley a lot???

BA Colorado Says:

If Agassi can win the French at age 29 and after everybody had given up on his best tennis then surely Federer has ample oppotunity to do the same (facing Nadal or not).

Jim Archer Says:

A couple of years ago I was talking to one of my sons about Nadal and Federer. My opinion at that time was that Nadal plays too violently and cannot last. One of the reasons Roger is No 1 is that he doesn´t take long injury breaks.
If Nadal´s knees are still bad for the French Open, I don´t think he will win. Clay will be hard on him.
Trouble is, if you take a long break to completely recover, you lose ranking points.

Voicemale Says:

Federer was lucky to even make the Final of the French Open in 2007. He should have plainly lost the Semi-Final to Davydenko. Kolya was serving for a Double Break lead in the first set, then served for each of the remaining two sets, and he choked all of his advantages away. Federer is the best, but he was lucky to escape that. He’s most vulnerable on clay because the power of his forehand is blunted because of the surface. Because of that, a guy like Nalbandian (who took the first set in their 2006 match at the French before retiring) could cause him a lot of headaches.

sensationalsafin Says:

Davydenko choked and Federer managed to grind his way out. It happens. But I disagree that the reason Federer can’t win is because his forehand is “blunted”. That’s like saying he has to completely change his style in order to win it. Had he faced Djokovic or Ljubicic or even Puerta, he would’ve won. It’s just Nadal plays the perfect clay court game. But it’s not like Federer hits a completely flat forehand, he hits plenty of topspin and as long as he hits his spots like he would on a hard court, he’ll be fine. Roddick doesn’t suck on clay because his serve magically loses power, it’s still pretty effective even on clay, the problem is that once he gets into the usual rallies, he doesn’t know how to move and handle the clay. Karlovic was still serving aces against Blake on the clay. It’s not as ridiculous and crazy of a surface as everyone tries to make it seem.

Tejuz Says:

And well.. when did Devydenko not choke against Federer??? he has done it time and again in all their big-matches. So nothing new about the French Open. Other than that, Fed dint even lose a set on his way to the finals of French ’07 and lost one set (to Nalby) in ’06.

Yes, Fed’s forehnad is a lil blunted against Nadal cuz of the way Nadal covers the court.. he gets less winners and then ends up making more unforced errors trying to force them. Ofcourse the high kick shot to his backhand just makes matters worse for him.

sensationalsafin Says:

He dropped a set to Robredo in the quarters. Why does everyone overlook this? He lost it 6-1!!

joanne Says:

I thought Roger returned to form in Shanghai.He said he figured out what was wrong;he was playing too passive.
When he got more aggressive his footwork came back.I think its a mind set he has to psyche himself up to play in.It makes sense that he had forgotten he needed to do this.
I think he is this multi talented guy who has difficulty sometimes with ‘being all of who he is’ because when he is all of who he is he blows himself away.I watched him after Aussie Open and he was very uncomfortable with the level of his success,almost embarrassed.I think its difficult for him to understand how good he is.I think he vacillates back and forth with totally getting off on it and being overwhelmed by it.
I think this is the cause of his very different levels of play in 07.As well as some just plain boredom that he exhibited at Indian Wells.It also took him out of his rythm when he and Tony were not getting along.
I see him blasting his way through the Aussie open and winning RG this year.
It was fantastic to see R.Fed back to his best.

ross Says:

Borg, Vilas, Lendl, Guga, Nadal – the top five clay courters of the open era. If you draw up a list of the next 5, Fed will be in it – just like other players have been unlucky to play in Roger’s time (like Roddick at Wimbledon), Roger is unlucky to play on clay in Nadal’s time. Roger would defeat at least half of the French Champions over the last 30 years ON CLAY AT THE FRENCH. His 4 masters titles on clay, and many finals in masters and French open attest to that. Plus he has routinely beaten ALL the other top clay courters on clay – people like ferrero, coria, ferrer, moya, costa, etc.

Voicemale Says:


Federer did lose a set at the 07 French, and lost it badly too: Robredo took a set from him at 6-1.

grendel Says:

Voicemale: have you gone to sleep? Sensationalsafin imparted that bit of info, loud and clear, just 2 posts ago.

JCF Says:

At the end of 04 when Fed won his 4th slam (3 that year), people laughed at the suggestion he would come close to Sampras’s tally. But 05 is the year he will inevitably surpass it. No one who laughed is doubting him now. Their only defense is to say that Pete had tougher competition, *yawn*.

I’d like to see how Pete and his contemporaries would have matched up against the Djoko, Nadal, Roddick, Hewitt, Nalby, Gonzo, Berdych, Safin, etc… These guys certainly hit harder.

victoria Says:

i think ferrer is a sexy beast he tried his hardest against bloody federrer but fed is to go no1 can beat him on normal court clay court rafa can hopefully rafa or david or juan richard will beat him so he will lose!!! rafa or david shoiuld witn the aus open! rodger sucks

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