Shanghai Flashback: Roger Federer edges Gilles Simon to win title

After winning just one title in 2013 (the lowest number since 2001), Roger Federer bounced back a year later to conquer the two fastest Masters 1000 events in Cincinnati and Shanghai alongside Dubai, Halle and Basel. The Swiss maestro stayed away from the Masters 1000 titles for two years after Cincinnati 2012 before changing that in 2014, gathering momentum and lifting the first Shanghai crown following a hard-fought 7-6, 7-6 victory over Gilles Simon in an hour and 53 minutes on October 12. Rafael Nadal lost in the opening match, and Roger barely escaped the same fate, fending off five match points against Leonardo Mayer to gain a massive boost for the rest of the tournament.

The Swiss played against only two break points against Julien Benneteau, Roberto Bautista Agut and the defending champion Novak Djokovic in the semis, playing on a high level and hoping for more of the same against the Frenchman. Gilles ousted Stan Wawrinka, Feliciano Lopez and Tomas Berdych to advance into the second Masters 1000 final and the first in six years, ready to challenge Federer and fight for the most notable moment of his career. Roger won 15 points more than his rival and still had to take both sets in the tie break to secure the title at the Qizhong Tennis Center, his 23rd at this level.

Simon served at only 51% but drew the most from his initial shot to save six out of seven break chances and make Roger run for his money, having opportunities to claim both sets. Federer was more efficient on both the first and second serve, repelling two out of three break points and forcing many errors from his opponent to secure the victory. The Swiss had the edge in both the shortest and more extended rallies, needing those sharp and aggressive groundstrokes against the rival who was on virtually every ball, moving superbly around the court and taming his shots from both wings to keep the chances alive from start to finish.

Roger Federer claimed the first Shanghai title in 2014, beating Gilles Simon. 

A backhand down the line winner gave Simon two break points in the first game and converted the first when Federer played a loose forehand to make a dream start. Gilles’ backhand worked like a charm, and he held at love to confirm the break and move 2-0 up before landing another good serve to wrap up the fourth game for a 3-1 advantage. Meanwhile, Federer found the rhythm in his games and had only one chance to pull the break back and prolong the set at 4-5 when Simon served for the opener. The tenth game is always tricky for a server to master, and Gilles netted a routine backhand to suffer a break and allow Roger to level the score at 5-5 and take momentum.

Three service winners pushed Federer 6-5 up, and he created two set points on the return in the next game. Gilles repelled them both and brought the game home with an ace to set up a tie break where he forced Roger’s error to create a 3-2 gap. Federer won the following two points on the return with a volley winner and a drop shot, but Simon stayed in the set thanks to a beautiful backhand down the line winner in the ninth point. Roger missed an easy volley at the net, and Simon had a set point at 6-5, denied by two service winners from the Swiss who clinched the set with a backhand down the line winner after 50 minutes.

Gilles repelled a break chance in the third game of the second set after Roger’s weak backhand. He erased another, attacking his opponent’s weaker wing to force an error and stay on the scoreboard’s positive side. Federer squandered another opportunity at 3-3, with Simon having a massive chance of taking the set after creating two set points at 6-5. Federer took care of both to avoid the setback, reaching the tie break with the pressure on Simon’s side. The Swiss clinched a mini-break in the fifth point and moved 5-2 in front with two winners on his serve to move closer to the finish line before sealing the deal after Simon’s forehand mistake. 

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