Special day in Shanghai delivers special Djokovic, Federer and Nadal results

Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are both through at the Shanghai Masters by Rafael Nadal crashes out

Glamorous Shanghai is a special city, and the Masters tournament hosted there is a special stop on the men’s tour.

It has won the players’ vote as ATP Masters Tournament of the Year ever since it was launched in 2009—the year after the magnificent magnolia roof of the Qi Zhong tennis centre hosted the last Masters Cup before the year-end showdown moved to London.

And in its 2014 playing, the tournament has achieved one very special coming together of the four biggest names on the men’s tour. Novak Djokovic, Rafael Nadal, Roger Federer and Andy Murray would all play on a single day at a single tournament for the first time this year.

Two of them, Djokovic and Murray, accounted for the last four Shanghai titles, while Federer and Nadal had reached the finals in 2010 and 2009 respectively.

In keeping with such a rare day as this, the schedule would go on to produce some rather special headlines.

Djokovic jumping

The world No1 sealed his 50th win of the season, 6-3, 6-4, as he began his title defence against one of the most promising young stars on the tour, Dominic Thiem. Making just eight unforced errors in the match, it also took him to his 26th consecutive win in China, with that run taking in his back-to-back victories in Shanghai as well as three straight titles in Beijing. The last of those China Opens was just last week, a tour-leading fifth 2014 title.

Murray moving up

Murray is hugely popular in China, and it shows in his tennis. Three consecutive Shanghai finals make the point, but he arrived this year with the Shenzhen title and a semi run in Beijing. And for the second week in a row, he beat the big and dangerous Jerzy Janowicz. Soon after, Milos Raonic retired from his match, and that left the door open for Murray to move within five points of Raonic, who stands at No8 in the Race to London, if he beats David Ferrer in the next round. So things are starting to look brighter for London for the man who sat at No11 in the Race just two weeks ago.

No luck for Nadal

The world No2 made his return to the tour in Beijing last week after missing the entire US Open Series with a wrist injury. He made the quarters, but come Shanghai was hit with appendicitis that confined him to bed and antibiotics for the weekend. Perhaps no surprise, then, that he was below par against Feliciano Lopez, but the 33-year-old who has struggled to score wins over Nadal throughout his career, has enjoyed something of a renaissance this summer, and is twice a semi-finalist in Shanghai. It was, then, Nadal’s misfortune also to face Lopez playing some of his best tennis. Lopez claimed just his third win in 11 years, 6-3, 7-6(6). He hit 35 winners, Nadal 27 errors, but most uncharacteristic of all, Nadal was 4-1 and break point up in the second set. No, this was not the usual Nadal. But could Federer take advantage?

Federer facing fire

Federer was the only one of the four playing his first match in Asia, but with Nadal’s loss, Federer could move to No2 in the rankings as well as the Race, where he was already second only to Djokovic. Despite leading the tour in matches won and hard-court wins this year, Federer’s lack of time on China’s courts caught him out against the in-form Leonardo Mayer.Mayer struck winner after winner to break the Swiss in the third game, dominating right up to the moment he tried to serve out the set. Federer broke to snatch it, 7-5, but Mayer did the same in second, breaking early, and this time confidently racing to the set, 6-3. It remained extraordinary to the end. Mayer served first, had five match points on Federer’s serve at 5-4, yet somehow, the Swiss determined that his journey across Asia would not be for one solitary loss. He took it to a final set tie break and won.

So the two former champions stay on course for a semi-final face off, one former finalist survived match point and two and three quarter hours, and the other heads home, saying he has no plans for surgery until the season is done.

Yes, it’s been a special day in Shanghai.

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