Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer met in the first Masters 1000 final in Miami 2005. Twelve and a half years later, two rivals battled for another Masters 1000 trophy in Shanghai. It was their 38th match on the Tour and their last title clash.
Roger scored his 15th triumph over Rafa in a dominating fashion, toppling the Spaniard 6-4, 6-3 in 72 minutes. It was Roger’s 94th ATP title and 27th at Masters 1000 level, the second in Shanghai after 2014. Federer defeated Nadal for the fifth straight time since Basel 2015, extending his career-best streak against the greatest rival.
Roger did just about everything right to oust Rafa, using the indoor conditions and one of the fastest hard courts on the Tour to spoil Nadal’s chances of taking his first Shanghai crown. It was a critical encounter for the Spaniard, who had won the last 16 matches starting from the US Open.
He saught the first Shanghai title and wished to seal the year-end no. 1 position, only to experience severe loss. As was expected, Federer was in attacking mode right from the start, taking the ball early and keeping the points on his racquet almost all the time.
His serve worked like a charm, supplementing that with a marvelous performance from his groundstrokes that kept him away from unforced errors. Roger was also in the safety zone with his backhand, like he did in the first part of the season.
The Swiss served at 68%, dropping eight points in eight service games and earning the freedom to attack the return and keep Nadal under constant pressure. The Spaniard landed 74% of the first serve in, but that did not give him much besides a respectable number of service winners.
He could not deal with Roger’s deep returns or impose his shots with the first groundstroke, standing inferior in the exchanges and finishing the clash with just five winners from the court! Nadal’s backhand was nowhere near his usual level.
He never looked like a player who could have turned the result in his favor, not against the rival who prepared a masterclass game plan and carried it out completely. There were no deuces in Roger’s games, with the Swiss doing more than enough on the return to create seven break chances and convert three to bring the match safely home.
Both players had 21 service winners. However, Nadal’s problem was that his initial stroke represented his best shot, not a usual pattern towards success for the Spanish giant. Roger was the dominant figure from the field, firing 17 winners (nine forehands and five from his backhand wing) and leaving Nadal far behind to create a massive gap in that segment.
Roger Federer ousted Rafael Nadal to win the 2017 Shanghai title.
Federer sprayed just seven unforced errors, an impressive number considering his aggression, while Nadal counted to 15, hitting ten from his backhand alone.
The Swiss hit three more forced errors (11-8), an irrelevant number for the overall score since he had the upper hand in both the shortest and more extended rallies. Federer was 38-31 in front in the points up to four strokes, and the advantage in the mid-range exchanges from five to eight shots was even more significant, winning 17 out of 26!
Only ten points reached the ninth shot, and Federer did not stay behind in them either, taking six to outplay Nadal fair and square. Roger could not hope for a better start; his return and backhand worked well from the first point to break Nadal in the first game.
Federer returned six of Nadal’s eight serves and earned a break with two backhand winners, which proved very important for the rest of the clash. Federer moved 2-0 in front with two service winners and Nadal’s errors.
The Spaniard put his name on the scoreboard in the next game with three service winners. Everything worked well for the Swiss; his serve made a lot of damage, and he had the edge over Nadal from the baseline to control the scoreboard.
After losing serve in that opening game, Nadal dropped just two points in the next three service games and closed all of them with a service winner, which was his most efficient shot. We saw four winners from both in games eight and nine, and Roger served for the opener at 5-4.
He did that in style, wrapping up a set after 35 minutes with an additional four winners. Federer lost only four points on serve, delivering risky shots and winning ten out of 14 mid-range rallies to leave Nadal empty-handed.
Roger won two points on the return at the beginning of the second set before Nadal closed the game by forcing his opponent’s error. The Swiss hit two service winners in game two to make the result even at 1-1. Rafa moved in front in game three thanks to three service winners (he was already on 17 but would get only four until the end of the match).
He reached 30-30 in the next game before Roger held with two winners. Rafa struggled to find the rhythm in the past six service games, although he avoided deuces or break opportunities. That all changed in game five when Roger broke to open up a 3-2 lead.
The Spaniard had only two service winners in ten points and did not feel comfortable without those, as Roger pushed strong with his groundstrokes. Federer had three winners and created two break chances, converting the second when Nadal felt another backhand wide to pretty much seal his fate.
Roger was in complete control and jumped into a 4-2 advantage after another comfortable hold, hitting two service winners and one from his backhand for another big step toward the title. Nadal reduced the deficit to 4-3 with a volley winner, only his fourth from the court.
He could not do anything on the return in the next one, as Roger blasted three more unreturned serves for a 5-3 advantage. Nadal served to stay in the match after 69 minutes, and the pressure was too big to handle, as he got broken for the third time to hand the victory to his rival.
Roger opened the game with a winner and did not have to do much in the remaining points. Nadal made three errors, and Federer closed the encounter after the opponent’s loose forehand right after the serve. Nadal’s last forehand summarized his entire performance from the baseline that day.
He needed much better numbers to stay on level terms with Federer, who overpowered him completely to lift his second and last Shanghai crown.