5 Things We Learned From Shanghai
We look into storylines that emerged during the penultimate Masters 1000 event of the season
1) Rest is best for Roger
They don’t call Roger Federer the ‘Swiss Maestro’ for nothing. The 36 year old has played a masterful schedule in 2017, helping him rise back to the No. 2 spot in the Emirates ATP Rankings with an outside chance at challenging Rafael Nadal for the year-end top spot. While many may point out his on-court play, some of that success boils down to something simpler: rest.
After losing in last year’s Wimbledon semi-finals, Federer took the rest of the year off to return to health, and that he did this season. The Swiss won the Australian Open, Wimbledon and this week captured his tour-leading third ATP World Tour Masters 1000 trophy in Shanghai. The timing of those victories are not a coincidence, either.
Federer won in Melbourne after his long layoff. Then he played only one tournament in nearly two months before winning in Indian Wells and Miami. He captured Wimbledon and Halle after skipping the clay season entirely. Now, he won his second title in Shanghai after taking time off following the US Open. Only one other player in the Top 10 has played as few tournaments as he has this season (17) — Nadal. Yet, the two rivals top the rankings.
2) Rafa still favorite to finish season at No. 1
Despite Nadal’s 16-match winning streak coming to an end against Federer in the Shanghai final, there is some good news for the Spaniard. The 31 year old is still in control of his own destiny in the battle for the year-end No. 1 Emirates ATP Ranking. While he could have gained a virtually insurmountable lead by beating the Swiss Sunday, Nadal still leads Federer by 1,960 points in the rankings.
Nadal has won six titles this season, the sixth time he has achieved the mark in his career. The left-hander won ATP World Tour Masters 1000 events in Monte Carlo and Madrid to tie Novak Djokovic's record of 30, and also captured two Grand Slam crowns at Roland Garros and the US Open.
3) Delpo remains dangerous, destined for Top 10 in 2018?
When Juan Martin del Potro is on, he is one of the toughest players on the ATP World Tour to beat. And he proved it again in Shanghai, coming back to eliminate third seed Alexander Zverev in the Round of 16 before advancing to the semi-finals, where he pushed Federer to three sets.
With a full schedule in the plans next year, del Potro may very well be destined to return to the Top 10 for the first time since 28 July 2014. The Argentine is projected to move up to No. 18 after his performance in Shanghai, and if he defends the 340 points he earned late last season, he will have a big opportunity to move up more early in 2018, as he missed this year’s Australian Open and did not play until the Delray Beach Open.
4) Dimitrov continues to impress, nearing London bid
The Bulgarian has never played in the Nitto ATP Finals. But as arguably his best season nears its zenith, he is closing in on qualifying for the year-end event for the first time.
Dimitrov sits in the No. 6 spot in the Emirates ATP Race To London, and is second in line to book his spot at The O2. David Goffin, next in line to qualify, is 705 points behind Dimitrov.
In Shanghai, Dimitrov showed plenty of resilience before exhibiting the skills that helped him return to the Top 10 of the Emirates ATP Rankings. The 26 year old saved three match points in a third-set tie-break victory over Ryan Harrison in his opener before ousting in-form World No. 17 Sam Querrey in straight sets. After pushing Nadal to five sets in Melbourne at the start of the year, he once again tested the Spaniard in China, losing in the quarter-finals in a two-hour, 32-minute three-setter.
5) Top two doubles pairs a step above
Top seeds Henri Kontinen and John Peers defeated second seeds Lukasz Kubot and Marcelo Melo, 6-4, 6-2, to capture their first Shanghai title and earn their third win in four tries against the Polish-Brazilian team this season. That moved the Finnish-Australian combination to within 360 points of Kubot/Melo in the Emirates ATP Doubles Race To London.
The top four doubles seeds advanced to the Shanghai semi-finals, but it was once again apparent that Kontinen/Peers and Kubot/Melo are a step above their nearest competition. The third team in the London standings, Jean-Julien Rojer and Horia Tecau, are at 4,980 points, which is 2,170 points behind the second-placed Kontinen/Peers.