Roger Federer starts his quest for a third Shanghai Masters title on Tuesday when he takes on Spaniard, Albert Ramos-Vinolas in the second round.
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This will be their first meeting since Ramos-Vinolas stunned the great Swiss in the same tournament at the same stage in 2015.
Federer has been champion in Shanghai twice in his seven previous appearances, in 2014 and 2017, while he made the final in 2010, and has made two other semi-finals, including last season, when he suffered a surprise loss to Borna Coric. The Swiss is bidding for his fourth title of the season, having already gone all the way in Dubai, Miami and Halle.
Federer also reached finals at Indian Wells and Wimbledon, where he missed two match points in a tough loss to Novak Djokovic. That was the closest he came to adding to his Grand Slam haul this season, as he fell to Rafael Nadal in the semi-finals at Roland Garros, lost to Grigor Dimitrov in the quarter finals at the US Open, and was beaten surprisingly to an inspired Stefanos Tsitsipas in the fourth round of the Australian Open.
It’s the first time since 2016 that Federer has failed to win any of the four Grand Slam titles. That will be the main disappointment in what has been a good season for the great Swiss, especially given how close he got at Wimbledon.
Federer has already qualified for the season-ending Nitto ATP Finals in London, where he will be making a record-extending 17th appearance, and seeking a seventh title. His immediate focus is however on Shanghai, starting off with a second round meeting with Ramos-Vinolas on Tuesday.
”The draw is tough here,” Federer said. “It also depends on your opponents a little bit. It’s not just every match on my racquet, unfortunately, but I feel like I have good energy left in the tank to go and finish strong.”
His draw would have been tougher, at least on paper, had former US Open champion, Marin Cilic beaten Ramos-Vinolas in the first round on Monday.
However, Cilic, a former top-three player has not quite been at his best this season, and Ramos-Vinolas took full toll with a quality 6-4 6-4 victory.
The Spanish left-hander hit seven aces amd dropped just five points on his first serve, and seven on his second, facing no break points throughout the one hour 22-minute contest. The world No. 46 converted two of three break points, one in each set, as he recorded his third victory in seven attempts over Cilic. He has also beaten Cilic in two of three encounters at the Shanghai Masters.
Ramos-Vinolas didn’t have the greatest first half of the season, and was out of the top-100 in June, but he has played a lot better post-Wimbledon, especially on clay. The Spaniard claimed the Gstaad title, reached the Kitzbuhel final and made the semis in Bastad, while he reached Challenger semi-finals in Genova and Szczecin.
The 31-year-old also made a good start to his Asian swing by reaching the semi-finals in Zhuhai, but he fell to Felix Auger-Aliassime in the first round of the China Open in Beijing last week. He is back winning again in Shanghai, scoring a very impressive victory over Cilic on Monday.
His best showing in Shanghai was a quarter final run in 2017, while the only other season when he’s made the third round was 2015- the year he defeated Federer.
Before that Shanghai meeting, Federer had eased to a 6-1 6-1 6-1 victory in their only previous encounter at Wimbledon in 2012, and he will be keen to get his revenge when they reunite again on Tuesday.
Ramos-Vinolas has generally been in good form lately, and will take plenty of confidence from his victory over Cilic, but as long as Federer maintains a decent level, he should move past the Spaniard, and into the third round.
Roger Federer vs Albert Ramos-Vinolas is live from Shanghai on Tuesday, 8 October from 6:30pm local time/11:30am BST