Roger Federer ATP 1000 Shanghai Rolex Masters Who Can Stop Him?


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Roger Federer enters the ATP Shanghai Rolex Masters as the second seed and firm favourite. The Tennis Review looks at who will most likely get the chance to stop the defending champion on his quest for his 88th career title.

Round 2 likely opponent Sam Querrey

Federer leads his head to head with Querrey 3-0, has never dropped a set against him, and only dropped eight games when they met in this year’s Wimbledon second round.

To win, Querrey would have to serve his very best, and take big risks on second serves and with his ground game in tiebreaks. Even then, though, that would still not cut it – Querrey’s serve is easy for Federer to read, and the Swiss would most likely just up his own level on key points, take wiser calculated risks of his own, and pull out the win.

Last Sixteen scheduled opponent Tsonga (8)

Federer leads 11-5 and 9- 4 on hard.

This is a tough draw early on for Federer who has suffered some tough losses to the Frenchman (Wimbledon 2011, Canadian Open ’09). Tsonga is in good fast hard court form, reaching the US Open quarters and winning the Metz trophy. But Tsongas’s record in Shanghai is average (9-5), he has never had any big wins there and it is hard to see him suddenly defeating Federer in the upcoming week.

For the win, Tsonga would have to be at his very best, and while he can produce that in big matches, his at times weak shot selection will most likely let him down if things get tight.

Possible Quarter-Finalist Kei Nishikori

Federer leads the head to head with Nishikori 3-2 with the last two wins convincing ones at the ATP WTF and Halle last season.

Nishikori can beat Federer on slow courts (Miami ’14) or Clay (Madrid ’13), but he will not have as much time as he needs on the Shanghai ones when it comes to the return or passing shots to really bother Federer.

Likely Semi-Final opponents

Stan Wawrinka, Marin Cilic, Rafael Nadal

Cilic would be the most dangerous opponent here. Federer leads him 5-1, but that one defeat was when Federer was in fine form in the US Open semis ’14.

Cilic is a streaky player and if he reaches the semis he would be hitting one of those streaks, especially since he has never reached an ATP 1000 semi-final. Should he make that breakthrough in the upcoming week in Shanghai that means the Croat will be serving big, teeing off on his ground strokes, defending well, attacking the net, and in the form that is capable of winning slams, and, more crucially, of beating Federer in big matches.

Second most likely to upset Federer in this round would be Wawrinka, but the chances are low- Federer has the upper hand in this rivalry on faster courts (see their recent US Open semi). Wawrinka, though, is coming off a win in Tokyo, can play great on fast hard, and is better than anyone at winning matches he is expected to lose.

As for Nadal, who just had a positive defeat, if such a thing exists, in the Beijing final versus Djokovic, the chances of Federer losing to him are the hardest to speculate on. These two have not played since the Australian Open ’14, and their fortunes have been strikingly different since that one sided contest.

This rivalry, led by Nadal 23-10, is as all about the lopsided nature of the surfaces competed on, the way Nadal has used that to get into Federer’s head, and the Nadal tactic of feeding deep high topspin groundstrokes to his backhand side.

Back in the days when Federer was losing to Nadal so often, he allowed Nadal to attack that backhand, abandoning an attacking strategy mid match. The 2015 version of Federer is not going to do that and his commitment to attack, and his riskier approach to his return game, should allow him to cut the deficit in that lopsided head to head versus Nadal should they meet in Shanghai.

Likely final opponent- Djokovic or Murray.

With the way Djokovic is playing on hard recently, (two runner-up finishes, two wins) he is Federer’s most likely final opponent. Federer would welcome that though. The Swiss may have lost the last three slam finals he has made to the Serb, but he has beaten him on the tour’s fastest ATP 500 and 1000 events in Dubai (x2), Cincinnati and Shanghai the past two seasons.

Last year Federer was decisive in his victory over Djokovic in the Shanghai semis, winning 6-4, 6-4 in a match in which both players had positive winner-error differentials.

This year, if the two meet in the final, the result, unless Djokovic is more aggressive than usual or Federer is below par, would most likely be the same.

In fact, if Federer is going to lose to anyone in the final, it is more likely to be Andy Murray who has beaten him twice in Shanghai (2010, 2012), but those defeats were after Federer’s peak and when he was not so committed to the aggressive tennis he is now.

Since adopting that career rejuvenating attacking style, Federer has beaten Murray decisively on faster courts, and would be likely to do so again. Murray, though, has proven this year he cannot be counted out from surprising us and could push Federer hard if his serve is on and he commits to being aggressive.

Nothing less will do. Hard to read effective serving and aggressive play- that is the kind of tennis Federer will be bringing to the final, and the only kind that will, on Shanghai’s faster than average courts, trump him.

Commentary by Christian Deverille.

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Christian Deverille

Christian Deverille is a tennis writer with a diploma in Freelance Sports Writing from the London School of Journalism. He loves all things tennis, most of all the Federer and del Potro forehands.

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