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Tennis 10sBalls Shares Ricky’s Preview Of The Shanghai Masters Final: Nadal vs. Federer

A general view of the semi-final match between Rafael Nadal of Spain and Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France in the Shanghai Tennis Masters at the Qi Zhong Tennis Center in Shanghai, China, 17 October 2015. EPA/ROLEX DELA PENA



Ricky’s preview of the Shanghai Masters final: Nadal vs. Federer


By Ricky Dimon


It will be the 38th installment of arguably the greatest rivalry in tennis history when Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer battle for the Shanghai Rolex Masters title on Sunday.


Nadal leads the head-to-head series 23-14, but Federer has narrowed the gap by picking up four straight victories–including three in 2017. Prior to this stretch, the Swiss had never won more than two consecutive matches at Nadal’s expense. Following a 2015 Basel success, however, Federer prevailed earlier this year at the Australian Open (6-4, 3-6, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in the championship match), in Indian Wells (6-2, 6-3 in round four), and in Miami (6-3, 6-4 in for the title).


Although the hard-court surface once again favors Federer, there is some good news for Nadal. Currently No. 1 in both the rankings and the 2017 race, Nadal has won two Grand Slam titles (the French Open and U.S. Open) since his early-season struggles against Federer. The Spaniard is also without question the best player int he sport at the moment, with a 16-match winning streak that also includes a winner’s trophy from Beijing. This week’s top seed has maintained momentum with defeats of Jared Donaldson, Fabio Fognini, Grigor Dimitrov, and Marin Cilic, losing just a single set to Dimitrov along the way.


“(I’m) very happy,” Nadal said after beating Cilic 7-5, 7-6(3) on Saturday. “Of course I played I think a very high level of tennis. (It) was a great match again. In my opinion, he played well, too; was a great, good quality of tennis this afternoon.”


“I was hitting unbelievable shots off the ground, and against other guys they would be winners,” Cilic commented. “Or just with serving, serving well, that would be either an ace or winner, and he makes you play another shot.”


Federer fired winners past Nadal with surprising consistency in Melbourne, Indian Wells, and Miami, but the tide may have turned. Whereas Nadal is on fire right now, Federer has not been at his absolute best. The 36-year-old cruised through a favorable Wimbledon draw but was plagued by a back problem during the hard-court summer in Montreal (fell to Alexander Zverev) and New York (lost to Juan Martin Del Potro). Federer is much healthier in Shanghai, where he has defeated Diego Schwartzman, Alexandr Dolgopolov, Richard Gasquet, and Del Potro–the latter via a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 decision.


“It’s nice at this late stage of the career that we still have these matches going on,” Federer said of his rivalry with Nadal. “There is only going to be a few chances for either player, and sometimes it’s just who blinks at the wrong time.”


Based on their current level of play, Federer may be more likely to blink. The world No. 2 has always been forced to bring out his absolute best in order to beat Nadal in a matchup that he once trailed 23-10. Federer was able to do that earlier this season, but the tables have now turned. A fast hard court will definitely give Federer a decent shot, but will it be enough for him to stop Nadal’s amazing hot streak?


Ricky is going with Rafa. He knows the rest of the 10sballs gang is probably going with Roger. Who ya got?!?!?

Ricky contributes to 10sballs.com and also maintains his own tennis website, The Grandstand. You can follow him on twitter at @Dimonator.

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