Roger FEDERER is targeting good performances in Basle and Paris after his hopes of qualifying for the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals were dealt a blow at the Shanghai Masters.
The Swiss suffered his latest disappointing defeat in a difficult season as Gael Monfils triumphed 6-4, 6-7 (5/7), 6-3 to reach the quarter-finals.
Federer is still in a decent position to make the World Tour Finals, especially given Andy Murray’s withdrawal on Wednesday, but it could well go down to the Paris Masters next month. Asked about Murray’s absence, Federer said: “I hope I don’t have to rely on it. If I have to, I have to. But that’s not really what I want. I’m just going to focus on trying to play well. I’m just going to try to have a good tournament in Basle and Paris.
“In the end, if I get the invite, I’ll be there.”
The 32-year-old battled very hard, showing a lot more emotion than usual, but it was not enough to get past Monfils.
Things quickly went wrong for Federer, who lost his serve in the opening game and then went on to lose the first set.
The second set seemed to be in Monfils’ grasp, but Federer recovered from a break down at 3-4 and then won four points in a row from 3-5 in the tie-break. He was swiftly behind in the decider too, and this time he could not mount a comeback. He had break points to get to 3-4 but they went begging and Monfils served out to love for only his second win in eight matches against Federer.
Monfils said: “I knew that I choked on the forehand at 5-4 [in the tie-break]. Then I changed my ideas because I was maybe nervous, too. Even [though] I was tired, I tried to play more aggressively sometimes, going more for my shots and it worked. It’s a good win for me. I feel a bit sorry for him as I know he’s running for London. But it’s tennis. He’s going to have more opportunity in those weeks coming up.”
Despite his recent troubles, Federer is still the greatest player of his generation as far as one former champion is concerned. Rod Laver, the only player to achieve the Grand Slam twice, said Federer’s consistency over the six to eight years when he was at the top of the game is what sets him apart from contemporaries such as Rafael Nadal and Novak Djokovic. “When I look at Federer, with what he’s accomplished, against the competition that he’s accomplished it with, I’d have to say I would think that Roger is the greatest player,” Laver said.
But the Australian, who won the Grand Slam in 1962 and 1969 and is still the only man to have won it in the Open era, is not sure he can call Federer the greatest of all time.
“I’ve always said if you’re the best in your era, that’s as good as you really can do. You could take it back to ‘Is it Fred Perry, is it Don Budge, is it myself that came along?’ ” Laver, who made his first trip to China to attend the Shanghai Masters, sat courtside as Federer lost to Monfils.
He said before the match that he can empathise with the trouble Federer has had staying near the top of the game and contending for majors now that he is 32 years old.
Laver recalls when he reached his 30s, he could play excellent one day and then have nothing left the next. “Is it the desire? Is it your emotion, does it come up? Is your adrenaline not flowing as well as it normally does in a match?” he asked. “I don’t know whether Roger’s feeling anything of that nature. But sometimes I notice him, he just doesn’t have it that day. But the day before he was magnificent.
“So it’s not a training method, fitness, nothing to do with his body. So, you know, you just wonder, is it adrenaline that gets you up for matches?”
While Federer made an early exit, Djokovic and Nadal stayed on course for another final clash.
Djokovic has been the form player in Asia so far and he eased past Fabio Fognini 6-3, 6-3 to set up a meeting with Monfils, while new world No 1 Nadal survived a close second set to eventually defeat Carlos Berlocq 6-1, 7-6 (7/5).
Eighth seed Stanislas Wawrinka overtook his countryman Federer in the race to London with a 7-6 (7/2), 6-4 victory over Milos Raonic – a blow to the Canadian’s hopes of playing at the O2 Arena.
Jo-Wilfried Tsonga defeated Kei Nishikori 7-6 (7/5), 6-0 and next meets Germany’s Florian Mayer, who upset third seed David Ferrer 6-4, 6-3.
Nicolas Almagro, upset fourth seed Tomas Berdych 6-7 (6/8), 5-3, 7-6 (7/4) and will face Juan Martin Del Potr, who progressed by virtue of Tommy Haas’s withdrawal due to a back injury.