Federer, Murray showdown icing on cake for fans
Tim Noonan in Shanghai
Saturday night in Shanghai, Novak Djokovic versus Roger Federer, finally its game on and the crowd knows it. They have been waiting to really roar for a while and when the combatants, the world numbers two and three, enter the arena to the blaring strains of U2's Vertigo, the non-stop drizzle that has shrouded the Shanghai Rolex Masters all week is an ancient memory.
The roof is now open at centre court and the stars are ready to shine. With Rafael Nadal eliminated earlier in the week Scotland's Andy Murray appeared to have an easy path to the final and earlier in the day the world number four took advantage with a 6-4, 6-1 semi-final victory over Argentina's Juan Monaco. But it was simply a bit of foreplay as Federer and Djokovic treated a rabid crowd to easily the best tennis of the week before Federer prevailed 7-5, 6-4.
While the scheduling snafus this week from poor weather could easily have put a damper on the tournament, the players still managed to maintain pretty good spirits and well they should.
Last year the Shanghai Rolex Masters was voted by the players the ATP World Masters 1000 Tournament of the Year. From all indications, it will probably repeat. 'It's an outstanding result,' said Brad Drewett, CEO of the ATP Tour, 'and well deserved recognition of a great job.'
Even though it is the other side of the world for most players, the Shanghai Masters is one of the eight 1000 events on tour, which means mandatory attendance and all of the top 20 players in the world are here.
'Regardless of that, we still want to treat them to a high level of service and quality,' said Charles Smith, managing director of Juss Events. Pretty much every conceivable amenity is covered. The sprawling and stylish players lounge would be the envy of any high-end boutique hotel while a one star Michelin chef from Turin oversees an esoteric array of culinary delights. There is a music room where players can jam on hi-tech drums and guitars as well as a cinema. There are even private locker rooms for the top eight players.
Even though the players might seem to be a little jaded by creature comforts, the event in Shanghai still leaves an indelible impression. 'Everything is pretty much perfect, the food is really nice, the locker rooms and lounge are great,' said Murray. 'The only thing is if the hotel was a little bit closer, that would be nice. But everything else is absolutely perfect.'
Journeys to the Shanghai Qizhong Forest Sports City Tennis Centre from the tournament hotel can be anywhere from one hour to 90 minutes depending on Shanghai's notorious gridlock.
However, Murray should have plenty of time to get to his final showdown with Federer today. He hardly broke a sweat against a game but overmatched Monaco. 'I played one bad game on my serve at the end of the first set.' said Murray. 'I missed one forehand by a mile. I missed a backhand by a mile. I served a double fault. But I was still feeling quite comfortable even at that stage.'
He does not have to look far to draw inspiration for his next match, having beaten Federer in the final of the Rogers Cup in Toronto in August. 'I do really enjoy playing Roger,' said Murray. 'It's obviously a great experience every time you get to play against him.'
It looked for all intents and purposes that the winner of the Federer-Djokovic match would be seriously exhausted for the final after a mesmerising first set lasting one hour and 10 minutes. But Federer broke Djokovic in the second game of set two and effectively drained the drama out of what had been an inspiring and intense display of tennis.
'Yeah, it was a very intense first set and I didn't use the chances that I had,' said a clearly disappointed Djokovic. 'When he got his first or second break point, he used it and finished off the set 7-5. The start of the second set, I lost my focus a little bit, my energy dropped. In a blink of the eye, I was two breaks down at 4-1. So it was very hard to get back from that situation.'
Federer had said earlier in the week not to judge his season yet as he still had plenty of good tennis to play and that his form had been quite good in spite of only winning one grand slam at the Australian Open. 'Tennis is very brutal in the judgment department,' said Federer. 'Sometime you play well and lose and I don't think Novak played bad today. But it is easier dealing with things and getting more energy when you win. I will be ready tomorrow and look forward to it.'