Roger Federer will continue his difficult chase of the world #1 ranking when he faces Richard Gasquet of France in the Shanghai Masters quarterfinals. The Swiss, however, faces an increasingly difficult task to close the gap at the top of the ATP rankings with Nadal’s lead looking almost unassailable. The second seed may also have one eye on his next opponent, who could be Juan Martin del Potro who defeated him in the US Open quarterfinals. Gasquet, meanwhile, has faced a battle to reach the quarters but has exceeded expectations by making it so far. With little to lose, can he upset an old foe?
There aren’t many players who can boast a winning record against Federer and Gasquet is not among them. In the 17 encounters between them, the Swiss maestro has won 15 to Gasquet’s 2. The last time the Frenchman won against Federer was in 2011 in Rome on the clay. His only other win also came on the clay at the 2005 Monte Carlo Masters. Aside from those two wins, Gasquet has managed just two sets against the eminent Swiss. In short, it’s been a rivalry dominated by Federer. The last time the pair met was in the quarterfinals of the 2015 US Open where Federer dominated Gasquet and defeated him in straight sets 6-3 6-3 6-1. On outdoor hard courts, Federer has won all six of his matches against Gasquet.
Path to the quarterfinal
Federer, playing in Shanghai for the first time since 2015, looked a little rusty in his first match since the US Open where he faced Argentina’s Diego Schwartzman. He won a tight first set in a tiebreaker winning it 7-4. However, he perhaps should have sealed the set earlier as he squandered several break points. He had a more straightforward second set breaking early and holding onto his break to seal the match 6-4 in the second set. In the round of 16, Federer faced the Ukraine’s Alexandr Dolgopolov. Federer outclassed Dolgopolov 6-4, 6-2. The Swiss broke the Ukrainian three times and faced just one break point himself. This is his fourth quarterfinal in six appearances in Shanghai. Interestingly, he is yet to lose a quarterfinal at the Shanghai Masters, making it to at least the semifinals every time he has reached the last eight.
The task of stopping him currently rests with Gasquet who has had to struggle through three tough matches to make it to the quarterfinals. In the first round against Dutchman Robin Haase, Gasquet lost a tight opening set 13-11 in the tiebreak. He recovered from that disappointment very impressively, however, winning a tight second set 7-5 before wrapping up the win 6-2 in the decider. In the second round, where he faced Hyeon Chung of South Korea Gasquet again dropped the first set, this time 3-6. But the Frenchman dug deep once again to eventually win 3-6 6-4 6-3.
In the round of 16, Gasquet overcame compatriot Gilles Simon in another tight encounter. The 31-year-old was forced to work hard in a contest that was in the balance until the end. Eventually, however, it was Gasquet who pulled through with a 7-5 6-7 6-3 victory. After a disappointing year which has seen him slide to world #31, Gasquet has shown some form in Tokyo and Shanghai. But will it be enough to inspire him to victory over Federer?
How do they match up?
After being ruled out of contention for the Grand Slams, Federer stormed back into the limelight this year. The Swiss boasted a 39-4 record coming into Shanghai having won five titles so far in 2017. The key to his resurgence this year seems to be increased confidence in his backhand, and that same potent combination of accuracy and power on the serve and forehand. He has also continued the profitable exercise of attacking the net whenever possible. That has been key to him keeping points short allowing him to continue competing at the highest level without pushing his body as hard as he once used to.
Gasquet remains much the same player he has always been. His forehand and backhand are both very effective shots. That being said, his long takeback, though aesthetically pleasing, can lead to him being rushed. His serve can also be exploited by aggressive returners. The key battle will likely be between forehands, however. Gasquet must try to dominate as much as possible with his whilst denying Federer the chance to control the match with his. If the Swiss is allowed to attack regularly with his forehand, it is hard to see Gasquet coming away with victory.
Federer looked to be in fine form against Dolgopolov which is bad news for Gasquet. The Frenchman has beaten the Swiss in the past but has lost their last seven meetings. It looks like the best Gasquet can hope for is to win a set, but even that is unlikely. Federer to win through in straight sets.
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