It took a “perfect match” by Roger Federer for Novak Djokovic’s 28-match winning streak in China to come to an end.
In their first match since Djokovic edged Federer to capture his seventh Grand Slam title at Wimbledon, the Swiss star exacted a measure of revenge with a commanding victory in the semifinals of the Shanghai Masters on Saturday.
Federer broke Djokovic twice to defeat the Serb, 6-4, 6-4, and halt his impressive streak dating back to 2010. During that stretch, Djokovic captured the China Open in Beijing three times and the Shanghai Masters twice.
“He played a perfect match,” Djokovic said. “Tonight is definitely one of the best matches he has played against me, that’s for sure.”
Federer also ended Djokovic’s 43-match overall winning streak to start the 2011 season when he beat him in the French Open semifinals that year.
“I look forward to the big occasions,” Federer said. “Doesn’t matter where it is in the world because there’s always a lot on the line, it’s a good story. It was the same again tonight.”
Federer nearly didn’t even make it past his opening match this week. The 17-time major winner was almost out of the tournament when he was forced to save five match points before beating Leonardo Mayer in a three-setter that ended well after midnight.
Now he’s into the final with a chance to win his first title in Shanghai — and fourth of the year — against Frenchman Gilles Simon on Sunday.
“I was thinking about it midway through the match when I was up a set and a break going, `Hmm, should I be here or elsewhere?“’ Federer said. “Clearly I feel very fortunate being in the tournament. But that’s sometimes how things go.”
In their last match in the Wimbledon final this summer, Djokovic and Federer battled for five grueling, momentum-shifting sets before the Serb finally finished it off in four hours to capture his seventh Grand Slam title.
Their 36th career meeting in Shanghai wasn’t nearly as close.
Federer relentlessly charged the net and volleyed with precision, winning 20 of his 35 forays. He also served strongly, hitting four aces in a row to win one game in the first set and fighting off the only break point he faced.
Djokovic had been the one dominating opponents in China the past two weeks. He didn’t drop a set last week en route to capturing his fifth China Open title in Beijing, overwhelming Tomas Berdych so completely in the final, it was a struggle for the Czech player to win a single game.
Against Federer, though, Djokovic was far more error-prone than usual. At 2-all in the first set, he misfired on his forehand several times to allow Federer to break and then played another sloppy game to open the second set and drop serve again right away.
Federer next plays Simon, a player who hasn’t beaten him since 2008. That match, however, was also played in Shanghai, at the season-ending Tennis Masters Cup.
Simon rediscovered some of his old form to defeat Feliciano Lopez 6-2, 7-6 (1) to reach his first Masters-level final in more than six years.
The Frenchman won all but two points on his first serve and never facing a break point. He also handled Lopez’s aggressive serve-and-volley game with ease, firing numerous passing shots down the line for winners and breaking the Spaniard twice.
“I was feeling really good from the baseline. I felt I almost didn’t lose one point from the baseline the whole match,” Simon said.
Simon had been a mainstay in the top 20, but middling results this year — including seven opening-round losses — saw his ranking dip to No. 44 in June.
In recent weeks, however, the Frenchman has been reborn. Having lost 11 of his past 12 matches against top-10 players before the U.S. Open, he’s suddenly beaten three — No. 5 David Ferrer in New York, and No. 4 Stan Wawrinka and No. 7 Tomas Berdych here in Shanghai.
He’s now projected to return to the top 20 next week — win or lose against Federer in the final.
“When I’m playing good, I can play at (the top players’) level,” Simon said. “This I’m not worried. The question is whether I will be able to do it tomorrow.”