Rafael Nadal Ousted in Shanghai by Well-Playing Florian Mayer

AndersCorrespondent IIIOctober 13, 2011

SHANGHAI, CHINA - OCTOBER 13: Rafael Nadal of Spain congratulates Florian Mayer of Germany after their match during the Shanghai Rolex Masters at the Qi Zhong Tennis Center on October 13, 2011 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Many tennis fans expected another Sunday final between Rafael Nadal and Andy Murray. German Florian Mayer had other plans as he defeated Rafa in straights, 7-6 (5), 6-3 at the Shanghai Masters. 

Currently ranked No. 23, Florian Mayer, who's won but one ATP 250 title in his life, scored one of the biggest victories in his career.  

The match stats show that Mayer was untouchable on his first serve, winning 89 percent of them as well as 56 percent of his second serves. By contrast, Nadal only managed winning 70 percent on his first serve and 58 percent on his second. Mayer even denied Nadal of getting a single break-point. 

Mayer was also the one dictating the terms of the match, hitting 29 winners to Nadal's 19 and 28 unforced errors to Nadal's 24. Mayer charged the net with success as he won 21 points on the 28 times he went to the net (seven out of 11 for Nadal). 

While the first set went to tiebreak without any breaks, Mayer skillfully broke Nadal twice in a row at the end of the second set. He won the match by playing bolder and bigger, setting up match-point with an excellent backhand down the line. 

A break-point and a match-point down, Rafa charged the net and played an excellent short cross-court volley to Mayer's ad side. However, Mayer somehow managed to get to it, and his response landed in Rafa's deuce corner. Too good. 

The German seemed almost in disbelief as he looked to the sky for answers as to how it was possible that he, Florian Mayer, had just beaten 10-time slam winner Rafael Nadal in straights. 

SHANGHAI, CHINA - OCTOBER 13:  Florian Mayer of Germany acknowledges the crowd after his win over Rafael Nadal of Spain during the Shanghai Rolex Masters at the Qi Zhong Tennis Center on October 13, 2011 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Get
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Mayer secured the pivotal break at 3-all as he lunged himself into a big cross-court backhand, forcing the error from Rafa. 

Next up for Mayer is a quarterfinal against either Tomas Berdych or Feliciano Lopez. If he can keep his level this high, he stands a good chance of further advancement. 

That said, the match was not only about Mayer playing well, but also about Rafa making an uncharacteristicly high amount of unforced errors in a two-sets match.

From time to time, Rafa looked to be dictating with his forehand, making Mayer run back and forth behind the baseline. At other times, Rafa would net a forehand he shouldn't miss or play a relatively returnable serve long. 

It wasn't Rafa at his best, but Mayer also simply took the match to him. An example of this is when Rafa played a high-bouncing forehand to Mayer's ad side in the middle of the second set. The ball didn't land particularly short, probably closer to the baseline than to the service line, but Mayer didn't care. 

He ran towards the ball and literally jumped up to the ball, belting his characteristic lunging backhand cross-court for a clean winner. Too good.

For Rafa, the defeat may be a blessing in disguise. He's played 10 matches more than Novak Djokovic this year and 16 more than Andy Murray and Roger Federer. With 77 matches, he's played more than almost everybody, if not everybody, this year.

The loss will give him a much-deserved rest before the Paris Masters in early November followed by the World Tour Finals and the Davis Cup Final in December.