Then there were two...
It is quite a distance from the noisy, inevitably raucous fans down under in Melbourne to the slightly exotic, intoxicating tennis crowds of the orient assembled this week in Shanghai.
But the two finalists for both venues remain the same in 2010. Roger Federer will face mirthless Andy Murray in the finals of the Shanghai Masters on Sunday—with the result being pretty much the same—we suspect.
The two tennis maestros have met twice in 2010. At the Australian Open, Federer defeated Murray in straight sets, 6-3, 6-4, 7-6. It represented their second slam final. The first occurred during the 2008 U.S. Open when Federer mercilessly knocked the Scot out in straight sets.
In both of Murray’s forays into slam final Sundays, he has found himself face to face against Federer in a five-set contest, losing to the Swiss both times.
But Murray did overcome Federer in the finals of the Rogers Masters in Toronto 7-5, 7-5. His chances of beating Federer are much greater in three-set matches. Head to head during their careers, in fact, Murray has the lead 7-5.
They have met only on hard courts—never on clay or grass since Murray began playing on tour in 2005.
Federer has been playing extremely well during his first tournament back since the 2010 U.S. Open concluded. He has displayed no rust or hesitancies in going for his shots. His return game has been on the mark with just the right degree of aggression.
Murray, too, has been playing well enough to win but he has not appeared super sharp thus far in the tournament.
He will be encouraged to rev up his game for the final on Sunday because a win offers the Scot an opportunity to gain some much-needed points on the field.
For his part, Federer will surpass Djokovic as the No. 2 seed on Monday whether he wins on Sunday or not.
Semifinal No. 1: (4) Andy Murray vs. Juan Monaco
Murray’s opponent in the semifinals was Argentine Juan Monaco. As the heavy favorite going into the match, the pressure rested firmly on Murray’s shoulders as the match unfolded.
For Monaco who was participating in his first Masters semifinal, the will to win never diminished, even though he faced a superior opponent.
The first set offered some scintillating tennis. Even though Murray went up a break early, the level of the Scot’s play dipped in the ninth game as Murray double-faulted to allow Monaco the chance to even the score.
As the Argentine Monaco served leading 15-0, Murray suffered a broken string on his racket and had to rely solely on lobs to keep himself in the game.
Remarkably, when Monaco misfired on his fourth lob, Murray closed out the set 6-4. The next set went quickly 6-1 and Murray was delighted to find himself playing in the Sunday finals.
Semifinal No. 2: (3) Roger Federer vs. (2) Novak Djokovic
In the other semifinal, Roger Federer defeated Novak Djokovic but not quite as easily as Murray dispatched Monaco.
The first set was very tight with only one break of serve when Djokovic served 5-5.
That allowed Federer to serve it out and take the first set 7-5.
Immediately following, as Djokovic opened serving in the second set, Federer broke the Serb’s serve again, eventually going up 4-1 before Djokovic broke back. Federer with one service break managed to hold on and win the second set 6-4 when Djokovic could not muster another break of the Federer serve.
Federer managed seven aces to Djokovic’s four, along with three double faults to the Serb’s four.
The difference came down to break point opportunities—Federer managed to convert three of four break points while Djokovic capitalized on one of five. Federer saved four of five service break opportunities while Djokovic managed to save only one of four.
With the match so close, these few chances to gain an advantage went Federer’s way as he won the important points in the match.
That means that if Federer wins the tournament in Shanghai tomorrow he will have defeated the No. 5, No. 2 and No. 4 players in the world on consecutive days.
That is pretty good for being the "old man" of tennis.
Federer is scheduled to appear next at the Stockholm Open, which begins on October 18. Also scheduled to compete in the tournament in Sweden are Robin Soderling, Tomas Berdych, Feliciano Lopez and Ivan Ljubicic.
Federer has also promised to appear at the Swiss Indoors in Basel on November 1. Last year’s winner, Novak Djokovic, is scheduled to play—defending his championship won in 2009.
The two top seeds will be joined by Andy Roddick, assuming he has recovered from an earlier injury as well as Tomas Berdych and Marcos Baghdatis.
Andy Murray is scheduled to appear next at the Valencia Open in Spain, which begins on October 31. Robin Soderling, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Gael Monfils and Nikolay Davydenko have committed to appear with him in Spain.
The next Masters event is the BNP Paribas Masters in Paris, which Federer has never won in his long, illustrious career. Last year he was knocked out in his opening match by Frenchman Julien Benneteau.
Federer will be looking once again, to add this jewel to his crown.
Following this event, is the World Tour Final in London, the last ATP event of the calendar year. Davis Cup action follows in December as 2010 winds down to a long-overdue conclusion.