Robin Soderling is the No. 5 player in the world, but today he looked like a rank amateur as he faced Roger Federer in the quarterfinals of the Shanghai Masters.
It was all over in less than an hour. Federer prevailed 6-1, 6-1.
The Swiss Maestro never allowed the Swede into the match, denying Soderling pace and rhythm as the two skirmished in the opening few games before Federer took control, never looking back.
The Swiss has been impressive for the whole tournament, dispatching long, tall John Isner and Italian speedster Andreas Seppi before meeting Soderling in the quarterfinals.
After his lengthy layoff following the U.S. Open, where the Swiss lost in the semifinals to Novak Djokovic in a 5-set match, Federer journeyed to Shanghai to play for the first time in this tournament.
The Swiss missed the inaugural event one year ago because of extreme fatigue.
This year Federer has shown no signs of being even a wee bit tired, rewarding fans with another classic between-the-legs shot for a winner during his match with Isner. Tennis fans enjoyed the Federer fun as much as Federer relished thrilling their sensibilities.
Seemingly, Federer’s fans had relaxed their lofty expectations a bit. It seemed to all the world that Federer had begun to fade. But his newfound success in Shanghai could recharge the Federer demand-for-success all over again.
First, however, the Swiss will have to get by number two Djokovic, who sits on his side of the draw. Federer will face the Serb in tomorrow evening’s showcase match.
In the other semifinal, Andy Murray will be pitted against Juan Monaco—not Rafael Nadal, who lost in the previous round to Jurgen Melzer 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.
Nadal was feeling the effects of playing too much tennis on his worst surface—hard courts. He could sense his own sluggish reaction time and his low energy level.
Stating that the best play of his season was probably behind him, Nadal left the impression that he was announcing, for all practical purposes, the end of his season.
One can forgive that sentiment in light of the campaign the Majorcan produced to finally gain entry into the heady kingdom of tennis legends.
In 2010 Nadal secured his career grand slam and recaptured the number one ranking, almost lapping the field. No one else is even close to equalling his total points in 2010.
Semifinal No. 1: Juan Monaco vs. (4) Andy Murray
So far Murray has met and defeated Yan Bai 6-2, 6-2 in the second round.
He followed that victory with a win over Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-3, 6-4. In the quarterfinals he met and dispatched Jo-Wilfried Tsonga 6-2, 6-2 in 55 minutes.
Unseeded Juan Monaco defeated qualifier Florent Serra in the opening round, followed by a win over Thiemo De Bakker in round two.
Then Monaco went on to defeat Mischa Zverev in the third round before facing 13-seed Jurgen Melzer in the quarterfinals.
Melzer, who had upset Nadal, was the first seeded player Monaco had faced, since all seeds seemed to fall just before meeting the Argentine.
Melzer’s charmed run ended with his Friday match against Monaco. The Argentine needed almost three hours to dispatch the Austrian Melzer 6-7, 7-5, 6-2.
Needless to say, Monaco, who has played a great deal of tennis, will be hard-pressed to take Murray out in the semifinals.
Pencil Murray into the finals.
Semifinal No. 2: (3) Roger Federer vs. (2) Novak Djokovic
You think that these two players don’t know each other’s games? They have played each other 16 times, with Federer winning 10 of those contests.
The last time they met was in the semifinals of the U.S. Open, when Federer remained unable to close out the Serb even though he had adequate chances to do so—two match points in the fifth set.
Djokovic reached the semifinals by defeating Ivan Ljubicic in the second round 6-3, 6-3 and Richard Gasquet 6-1, 6-1 in the third. His quarterfinal opponent, Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez lasted just a little over an hour before falling 2-6, 3-6.
Djokovic has dropped just 13 games in his three matches, while Federer has dropped 16.
The deciding factor in this upcoming match will be who is returning better on the day. Federer will be trying once again to deny his opponent any rhythm, allowing the Swiss to dictate pace.
Djokovic will be looking to up his first-serve percentage to keep Federer on his heels during the Serb’s service games. Djokovic will also be looking to pounce on his opponent’s second serves.
Based on the way Federer dominated Soderling, the number five player in the world, the Swiss will be standing on Sunday in the finals against Murray.
What is the point?
Federer and Murray did not play in this event last year. Djokovic did, however, and he was a semifinalist in Shanghai in 2009.
Currently there is a difference of 410 points between Federer and Djokovic. So the only way that the Serb can stay ahead of Federer in the standings and hold onto his number two ranking is to win their semifinal match on Saturday.
If Federer wins, then he will take over the number two spot in the ATP Rankings.
That probably means little to Federer at this point, because remaining in the top four is all that really matters on hard courts.
When the action returns to clay, then being number two grows in importance. It ultimately means facing Nadal only in the finals—not in the earlier rounds.
For now, Federer will be content tying Nadal for 18 Master’s shields—should he reach the finals.