After coming through a tough second-round battle with David Goffin, Roger Federer will attempt to reach the Shanghai Masters semi-finals for the third straight season when he takes Alexander Zverev on Friday.
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Federer is looking to reach the Shanghai semi-finals for the sixth time overall, as he continues his bid for a third title at the tournament, while Zverev is bidding to get into the last four for the second straight year.
Second seed, Federer was made to work very hard for his spot in the semi-finals, as he saved a barrage of set points in a difficult first set against David Goffin before edging past the Belgian 7-6 6-4 in the third round on Thursday. An aggressive Goffin scored the first break of the match for 6-5, and subsequently had three set points while serving for the first set in the next game, but he fluffed his lines, making a couple of errors and offering a double fault as the set points disappeared. He missed two more set points in the tie break before Federer squeezed over the line on his second set point. Both men had early break chances in the second set, but it was Federer who made the decisive move in the seventh game, scoring the sole break of the set before closing out a hard-fought victory in just under two hours.
The great Swiss had also been pushed in his tournament opener against Albert Ramos-Vinolas, who lead 4-1 in the second set tie break, but Federer won six of the last seven points to take the set and complete a 6-2 7-6 victory, setting up the meeting with Goffin.
Federer will now attempt to reach his seventh semi-final of the season, and his first since Wimbledon when he plays Zverev on Friday. A fine season has already produced titles in Dubai, Miami and Halle, while he made finals at Indian Wells and Wimbledon, and the semi-finals at Roland Garros. The 38-year-old is 45-7 in 2019, and has already booked his spot at the Nitto ATP Finals for a record extending 17th time.
Alexander Zverev will be looking to join Federer in London next month, but the German still has some work to do if he is to qualify for the year-end Finals.
Zverev currently occupies the eighth and final qualifying spot for the Finals, but the battle for those last two spots is quite congested (assuming Tsitsipas in sixth will qualify sooner rather than later), and one win could prove to be the difference between qualifying and missing out.
It is even more important for Zverev to qualify as he is the reigning champion, and will lose a heavy dose of ranking points if he fails to get into the season-ending tournament. Zverev was mighty impressive in winning the London title last season, taking out Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic in the semi-finals and final, but he has surprisingly struggled to get anywhere near that level in 2019, winning just one trophy in Geneva, and making one other final in Acapulco. The 22-year-old has reached two other semi-finals, one of them in his home tournament in Hamburg, and the other in last week’s China Open in Beijing, where he played some of his best tennis in recent times to defeat Frances Tiafoe, Felix Auger-Aliassime and Sam Querrey before falling to Stefanos Tsitsipas in the semi-finals.
He is looking to build on that in Shanghai, where he has already beaten Jeremy Chardy 7-6 7-6 (he saved three set points in a 28-point first set tie break before taking the set on his sixth set point), and Andrey Rublev 6-0 7-6 in the third round on Thursday. He looked on course for a crushing win when he lead 6-0 5-2 against Rublev, but to his credit, Rublev fought back to push the set into a tie break before succumbing to the world No. 6.
Next up for Zverev is a seventh meeting with Roger Federer, with the pair tied at 3-3 from their previous encounters.
“I think it was very good tennis [against Goffin in the third round], but I know against Roger it’s going to be very, very difficult. He’s going to try to do different things, and it’s going to be a difficult match,” Zverev said.
For all the trouble he’s had this season, Zverev remains one of the best players in the world at the moment, and if he puts it all together, he has all the tools to make life very difficult for Federer. The German has a big and potent serve, is generally solid off the ground, especially on the backhand wing, and is a fantastic athlete- can he find that level, which has been elusive for most of the season, and take down Federer in Shanghai on Friday?
Roger Federer vs Alexander Zverev is live from Shanghai on Friday, 11 October from 6:30pm local time/ 11:30pm BST