Roger Federer was pushed like few times before in his FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry with David Goffin on Thursday at the Rolex Shanghai Masters. But the outcome followed a familiar pattern.
Federer saved five set points in the opener and then rolled into his 87th ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final 7-6(7), 6-4. “I never really felt like I had the upper hand over David today. I thought he did a really good job. He was so much better than at the US Open,” said Federer, who beat Goffin 6-2, 6-2, 6-0 in New York.
The Swiss will next meet German Alexander Zverev, who beat Russian Andrey Rublev 6-0, 7-6(4) to further bolster his Nitto ATP Finals chances. The 22-year-old currently holds the eighth and final qualification spot in the ATP Race To London with 2,435 points, only 50 points behind seventh-placed Roberto Bautista Agut of Spain.
“I think it was very good tennis, but I know against Roger it’s going to be very, very difficult. He’s going to try to do different things, and it’s going to be a difficult match,” Zverev said.
Goffin had the right plan against the 38-year-old Swiss, charging forward and playing aggressively. The Belgian had beaten Federer only once in their 10 meetings, at the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals. But after he erased a set point at 4-5 on his serve, Goffin broke Federer and had the set on his racquet, serving at 6-5.
Two missed forehands and a double fault, though, saw three set points come and go in the 12th game. In the tie-break, Goffin had a set point as Federer served at 5/6, but the Swiss erased it with a laser inside-out forehand. Goffin saw another set point on his serve, at 7/6, but a backhand wide kept Federer in it, and the two-time Shanghai champion clinched his second set point.
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“It was really him that was able to, I don’t want to say dictate play, but I think he was very clear in his shot selection, when to do what also in terms of the scoreline. I thought he took really a lot of good decisions, and he was super fast on his feet today, which I think made it really hard for me to get my freebies and winners off the baseline, because he was getting to all of them,” Federer said.
“It was a really tough match today. I think that first set maybe ended up being key.”
Goffin rebounded in the second set, but Federer broke in the seventh game when Goffin netted a forehand approach. The Belgian was looking to add 90 points to his ATP Race To London tally by making the quarter-finals. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up (l. to Dimitrov) is currently in 10th place in the Race (2,325 points), 30 points behind ninth-placed Matteo Berrettini of Italy.