Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer will battle against another for 38th time in their career and the fourth time this year, after both recorded hard fought wins in the semi finals on Saturday at the Shanghai Rolex Masters series event. While the top seeded Nadal eliminated the fourth seeded Marin Cilic of Croatia, 7-5,7-6(3); second ranked Roger Federer came from behind to beat Juan Martin Del Potro 3-6,6-3,6-3, thus avenging the loss he suffered at the hands of the Argentine at the U.S. Open in New York last month.
The 2014 U.S. Open Champion Cilic had to save six break points in the first two service games while Nadal who had not dropped a single service game in three matches in Shanghai held his serve comfortably as the set looked like heading for a tie-break. Against the run of play, Nadal had to save three set points in the tenth game of the first set. He broke the Croat’s serve for the first time in the next game and served out the first set 7-5 in 67 minutes.
The duo would exchange early breaks of serve in the second set, but Nadal would break in the ninth game only for Cilic to break back right away. This time the set was decided in the tie-break, but Nadal would emerge victorious as he sealed the 7-5,7-6(3) win in two hours and twelve minutes. Nadal extended his winning streak to sixteen, which includes a third U.S. Open title and also the China Open in Beijing last month.
He improves to 5-1 in career meetings over the Croat, and now stands a chance to win a maiden title in Shanghai which would also be the 31st Master’s series title, a record he jointly shares with Djokovic with 30 wins apiece. A win would almost certainly ensure Nadal would finish the year ranked no. 1 for the fourth time in his career, having previously done so in 2008, 2010 and 2013.
In the evening session, Roger Federer, the 2014 champion, reached his third final in Shanghai after coming from a set down against the 2009 U.S. Open champion. Del Potro secured the lone break of serve in the first set, but after failing to convert on four consecutive break points in a lengthy sixth game of the second set, Federer seized the momentum for good as he finally converted on his fifth break point to go up 4-2.
Del Potro saved two set points down 2-5, but Federer served out the set easily in the ninth game to force a decisive third set. He got an early break in the third game and closed out the one hour and fifty eight minute match as he broke again in the ninth game. Federer never faced a break point in the last two sets and now faces his long time arch rival Nadal for the fourth time in 2017. Federer trails the head to head 14-23, but has won all three matches this year between them, first at the Australian Open, and then in Indian Wells and Miami.
Federer will be aiming to win his sixth title of the year and the 94th of his career and a 27th Masters series title. He won his fifth Australian Open in January, completed the Indian Wells and Miami double for a third time, a record 10th crown in Halle, and also a record eighth Wimbledon crown.
Nadal leads the tour with six titles this year, having won titles in Monte Carlo, Barcelona, Madrid and a record extending 10th French Open crown at the Roland Garros in Paris, a third U.S. Open crown and also last weekend in Beijing. He is looking for his 76th career title and a record 31st Master’s series title. He and Djokovic are currently tied at 30 titles at ATP 1000 events.
Prediction :- Federer is 43-4 in 2017, while Nadal has a tour best 65-9 record for the year. Once again this is a tough call but Federer who also has won five U.S. Open titles is the better player on hard courts. Expect this one to be closely contested with Federer winning in three sets.
– Rasesh Mehta [Rasesh Mehta is an analyst with the Tennis Galaxy. You can reach him at the email: sportzcosmos@]