October 16, 2017
For Roger Federer, there was a familiar sense of achievement, an extension of what had happened already in his memorable 2017.
For Maria Sharapova, this winning feeling hadn’t befriended her for years – and she was going to enjoy every moment.
Both superstars took titles in China. Federer emerged the winner among the top men, after catching out the best in the business with his speed and accuracy.
Rafael Nadal had no answer as Roger beat the Spaniard 6-4, 6-3 to win the Shangai Masters, never giving the world number one a moment’s respite.
Federer doesn’t think he will ever overturn the 23-15 defecit in their overall head-to-head, even though he has won the last five – four of them this year.
‘It’s not going to happen, we don’t have enough years left on the tour,’ Roger explained.
But could Federer take the world number one crown from his arch-rival? He wasn’t so keen to rule that out completely.
‘World number one? I think it’s a long shot. I don’t think it’s going to happen but if I play like this who knows, maybe I’ll get close to it.’
For all his passionate brilliance, Nadal can’t feel like he is the best in the world. Not when he keeps losing to Federer.
‘It was a very difficult match for me,’ said the 31-year-old. ‘He played very fast and he played well…When you play against someone who is better than you in most of the things that really matter in this sport, on this kind of surface, then it’s tougher.’
It’s a different story on clay, of course, where Nadal is king. But Federer is the boss away from the dirt.
Meanwhile Sharapova hasn’t felt as though she is at the very top of the women’s game for a while. However, her gutsy 7-5, 7-6 (10-8) victory over Aryna Sabalenka, to take the Tianjin Open, provided an important psychological and emotional boost.
‘It is a special title, a special victory,’ Maria purred. ‘It has been a couple of years since I have held the winner’s trophy. It is a great feeling, a team effort.
‘When you start all the way from the beginning of the tournament, and it was so cold and not as many spectators, and then you end up playing in the final in a full stadium with so much enthusiasm and energy and you are the one who wins the last point, everything just falls into place. You have to appreciate those moments, never take them for granted.’
Sharapova’s serve still looks vulnerable. But she will be desperate to rediscover enough strength in her all-round game to have the chance to defeat her nemesis, Serena Williams, when the American comes back onto the tour early next year.
For now, a win is a win and it feels fantastic. Roger and Maria, still rolling back the years, still showing the sheer grit that made them great in the first place. And both are likely to add to the magic of Wimbledon 2018. Try to be there with us.
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