© Shanghai Rolex Masters

Roger Federer has won the last two Masters 1000 events – Cincinnati and Shanghai – on the ATP World Tour. Add to those a runner-up finish at the previous Masters 1000 tournament –Rogers Cup in Toronto – and a US Open semifinal and he has made a statement that, at age 33, he remains in the trio atop men’s tennis with Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal.

His fate in Shanghai last week hung by a thread in his first match when he survived five match points to defeat Leonardo Mayer 7-5, 3-6, 7-6(7). Coming off a three-week break after beating Simone Bolelli and Fabio Fognini in Davis Cup in Geneva, he could have been expected to be rusty…and he was. But the No. 25-ranked Mayer played a fantastic match and had an eminently make-able backhand pass that caught the top of the tape on his first match point leading 5-4, 15-40 on Federer’s serve in the final set. Take a look below.

On all the other match points, Federer played solidly, especially the third one down 6-4 in the tiebreak – a serve, a high forehand volley deep followed by a gutsy leaping overhead winner won him the point. And eventually, with vintage virtuosity, he converted his only match point with a glorious backhand topspin lob winner over a crushed Mayer.

Federer won because he kept his cool and used his experience to survive against the free-wheeling Mayer, who played inspired tennis and deserved a better fate.

Incidentally, it was only the third time in his career that Federer won a tournament after saving a match point (or points). The other two occasions were the 2006 – Masters Cup (Andy Roddick) and Halle (Olivier Rochus).

There have been probably double-digit occasions when Federer has lost matches in which he held match points. His most snake-bitten season was 2010. Below, thanks to ATP stats maestro Greg Sharko, are the four losses he had that year after being one point from victory:

Marcos Baghdatis: Indian Wells – 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(4) / 3 MP

Tomas Berdych: Miami – 6-4, 6-7(3), 7-6(6) / 1 MP

Novak Djokovic: US Open – 5-7, 6-1, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5 / 2 MP

Gael Monfils: Paris – 7-6(7), 6-7(1), 7-6(4) / 5 MP


Looking cool (above) shortly after arriving in Shanghai, Federer has been able to roll with the punches this year – overcoming disappointments like Ernests Gulbis upsetting him in the Roland Garros round-of-16, Djokovic beating him in five sets in the Wimbledon final and Marin Cilic playing lights out against him in the US Open semifinals.

Following the two hours and 42 minutes it took to overcome Mayer, he must have been tired but was able to re-group and win his last four matches in Shanghai – Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-2, Julien Benneteau 7-6(4), 6-0, Djokovic 6-4, 6-4 and Gilles Simon 7-6(6), 7-6(2) – without losing a set.

The Bautista Agut match was noteworthy because Federer won 22 of 24 net points – losing one point on an over-hit forehand swing volley and the second on a net cord passing shot that nicked the net, giving him no chance.

That kind of forward-moving initiative was key to his success, especially against Djokovic, who was not quite as sharp as he normally is with his passing shots. The Serb, arguably the most gracious loser among the so-called Big Four, described the semifinal as “a perfect match” by Federer and added about him, “I think he’s playing as good as ever.”

As well as his genius on the court, away from it Federer has been uncannily savvy in managing important career decisions. There was another one recently and last week he revealed why he had ended a long relationship with his physio, Frenchman Stéphane Vivier (above).  

“With Steph, I’ve had a great five years,” Federer said. “I like finishing on top with guys, not when I’m in a slump or when I’m not doing well, like last year with my back. It’s easy to say ‘let’s just change.’

“I wanted to try to figure out a way to get out of it (the back) and get better again, which he was able to do. But like so many times with coaching, massage, or physiotherapists over the years, I like to keep it fresh, keep it changing, and change at the right time.

“I’m very happy with all the work he’s put it. I couldn’t be more thankful because he’s put in a lot of weeks and months for me, a lot of sacrifice.”

(His new physio is Swiss Daniel Troxler who has worked with the Davis Cup team and had a relationship with Federer dating back as far as the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.)

Federer is sort of like professional sports teams in the way that they constantly try to shake things up to tinker with their rosters and improve chemistry.

Here’s a look the coaching relationships Federer has had over the years:

19992003: Peter Lundgren

2005 – 2007: Tony Roche

2010 – 2013: Paul Annacone

2014 – present: Stefan Edberg

It was a surprise when he parted ways with Lundgren at the end of the 2003, the year he won his first Grand Slam at Wimbledon. As well, he had no coach from 2007 to 2010 although Swiss Davis Cup captain Severin Luthi was usually around and helping in a way that was very much like a coach.

Gentleman that he is, Federer has not let his feelings or loyalty get in the way of what he feels is best for his game. Lundgren, Roche and Annacone were widely viewed as ‘good guys’ but still Federer was not afraid to make a move when he saw fit. And, it should be noted, he has maintained friendly relations with each of them.

Luthi (above with Edberg) was in Shanghai with Federer and will be with him and Stan Wawrinka for the Davis Cup final in Lille, France, from November 21-23.

Federer’s next event is in his hometown of Basel next week and then he’s slated to play the Masters 1000 in Paris the following week. With the ATP World Tour Finals looming in London two weeks after that followed by the Davis Cup final five days later, it’s possible he could take a pass on the Bercy event. He showed last week, albeit his first match was an adventure, that he can return and play at a high level after a significant break.


The Shanghai experience was somewhat overwhelming for Federer, who was the darling of the crowds, as the unlikely but creative banner above indicates. Even Federer himself commented on it after his first match.

He was very respectful and gracious about his success in the Chinese metropolis. “To win this tournament, the biggest by far in Asia, is a real treat” he said during the trophy presentation.


He had a chance (above) during the week to be photographed with former NBA (Houston Rockets) player Yao Ming, who is 7-foot-6. Needless to say the 6-foot-1 Federer looked tiny. But then even 7-foot-1 Shaquille O’Neal (below) is dwarfed by the 34-year-old Chinese superstar.

Federer summed up his 2014 experience in Shanghai as “a dream week” and praised it as “an amazing, vibrant city.”










Novak Djokovic-Q




Roger Federer-Q




Rafael Nadal-Q




Stan Wawrinka-Q




Kei Nishikori




Marin Cilic




Final (150 points)


Tomas Berdych




Final (150 points)


Milos Raonic




2R (20 points)


David Ferrer




Final (150 points)


Andy Murray




QF (45 points)


Grigor Dimitrov




SF (90 points)


Jo-Wilfried Tsonga



It’s not that easy to make sense of this ATP chart – but basically it tells the story of who has the best chance to make it to the final eight in London for the ATP World Tour Finals from November 9-16.

In the ‘best other” column are results that must count according to the ranking rules. So, the “needed to replace” column refers to the points a player requires in order to improve his ranking taking into account the mandatory points he already has.

Of the six main contenders for the last three spots – Cilic is virtually assured of making it under a rule that says a Grand Slam winner is guaranteed entry if he finishes in the Top 20 – Raonic is well situated and has a favourable draw as top seed in Moscow this week.

The only question here might be is it worthwhile to push hard this week when there are two weeks coming up – the 500s in Basel and Valencia next week and the Masters 1000 in Paris the following week – that offer twice as many and quadruple as many points? This particularly applies to Ferrer who needs to make the Vienna final to add any points in the Race.

Is it worth it to take a chance of being worn out heading into those final two weeks of tournaments? A title (250 points) in Moscow or Vienna or Stockholm is worth 110 fewer points than a semifinal (360) at the ATP 1000 in Paris. Similarly, a title at this week’s ATP 250s is worth 50 points fewer than a runner-up finish (300) at the 500s in Basel and Valencia next week.    

It’s notable that Kei Nishikori is the only real contender who is not in action this week.

Obviously the fields are tougher the higher the level of the tournament, but it’s interesting to speculate about the scheduling strategy of the various players as they enter the home stretch in the race to London.

NOTE: Next week Eugenie Bouchard will be one of the eight players in the women’s year-end grand finale – the BNP Paribas WTA Finals in Singapore from October 20-26.



Its déjà vu all over again – Daniel Nestor and Nenad Zimonjic have broken up and will not be playing together next year.

It’s not exactly shocking, given that they have never been very compatible on a personal level, to learn that they have split after going 3-5 at their last five events, losing in the first round in both Beijing and Shanghai the past two weeks.

The re-uniting for 2014 – after separating for the first time in 2010 following Wimbledon titles in 2008 and 2009 – still has to be viewed as a success. They won three titles, including the Masters 1000s in Madrid and Rome (beating the Bryan brothers at both events) on clay, and in the individual rankings Nestor has risen from No. 25 at the end of 2013 to his current No. 3 spot – pretty well as good as it gets with the Bryans almost permanently ensconced as co-No. 1s.

Next year Zimonjic will play with Michael Llodra, who will become a doubles-only competitor, while Nestor will team with Rohan Bopanna, a 34-year-old Indian who currently ranks No. 28.

Bopanna and Nestor played together in Winston Salem, N.C., in August, losing their opening match 7-6(3), 7-6(2) to Colombians Juan Sebastian Cabal and Robert Farah.

So far in 2014, Bopanna has a 30-22 record, mainly with Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi of Pakistan, while Nestor is 46-20, with all but two of his tournaments being with Zimonjic.

Nestor and Zimonjic will be together for the ATP World Tour Finals next month in London. A spritely 42, Nestor will hope to duplicate what he did in 2007 after splitting with longtime partner Mark Knowles midway through that year – namely re-unite and win the year-end championships.  



As part of his deal with PokerStars, Rafael Nadal engaged in the above set-up to get some publicity for his ability to bluff – at and away from the poker table.

After injuring his wrist and missing three months, then having an appendicitis attack when he finally returned the past two weeks, maybe it’s not so far-fetched that his misfortune could extend to getting hit with a ball on a golf course.