SHANGHAI, October 11- Roger Federer blew away Novak Djokovic in a fearsome Shanghai Masters performance Saturday to end the Serb’s incredible winning streak in China and set up a final with Gilles Simon.
A brilliant attacking display from the 17-time Grand Slam winner, who served with aggression and spent much of his time at the net, unsettled the world number one for a 6-4, 6-4 win.
As well as raising expectations of 33-year-old Federer’s 81st career title, the resounding victory will also restore him as world number two, displacing his great rival Rafael Nadal.
“It was a great match,” said the Swiss. “I think I played very well. There was nothing in the game today that wasn’t working.”
Djokovic, who was the two-time defending champion in Shanghai and clinched his fifth China Open title last week, was gunning for his 29th consecutive win on Chinese soil in his first match with Federer since this year’s epic Wimbledon final.
Both players were looking to unnerve each other early on, with Djokovic attempting riskier groundstrokes to counter Federer confronting him at the net.
Every point was greeted with exuberant cheers in Shanghai’s packed Qizhong Tennis Center, and the stadium erupted when Federer broke serve on his second break point in the fifth game.
– Djokovic defence –
Djokovic saved the first break point by finding a way past Federer — who was again at the net — but gave away his serve with a weak backhand slice moments later.
He then earned his sole break point of the set in the next game, which Federer saved. The Swiss then produced a perfect serving game at his next opportunity, firing four successive aces to march to a 5-3 lead before sealing the set 6-4.
Federer carried his ruthless approach into the early stages of the second set, breaking in the first game with a lifting groundstroke that was beyond Djokovic.
Djokovic staged a valiant attempt to break as he was losing 3-5 with some incredible net play as the pair tussled at deuce. But Federer recovered and claimed the set and match in one hour 36 minutes.
Federer improved to 19-17 against Djokovic with the result, and will overtake Nadal, who is suffering appendix problems, to claim second place in the rankings next week.
“He played from first to last point a very, very good match,” a dejected Djokovic said.
“I think I did not play too bad. It’s just that he played everything he wanted to play,” he said, calling it “the perfect match” from Federer.
“This tonight is definitely one of the best matches he has played against me, that’s for sure.”
Federer’s best showing at the Masters 1000 event was as runner up in 2010, although he did win in Shanghai when it hosted the Tennis Masters Cup in 2006 and 2007.
Federer said that confronting Djokovic at the net was part of his game-plan.
“I was very happy it worked as well as it did,” he added.
He will meet Simon in the decider Sunday, after the Frenchman powered past Feliciano Lopez 6-2, 7-6 (7/1) to reach his first Masters final in six years and seal his return to the world top 20.
The world number 29 has only contested one Masters final to date, when he lost to Andy Murray at Madrid 2008, but he is in good form after also reaching the last four in Tokyo last week.
Simon beat Australian Open champion Stan Wawrinka and then sixth seed Czech Tomas Berdych in the Shanghai quarter-finals after taking every game in the final set.
On Saturday, the Frenchman picked up where he left off in the quarters, serving up a masterclass in aggressive play early on, before sealing the match in 80 minutes.
“I really played what I had to,” Simon said. “I was feeling really good from the baseline. I felt I almost didn’t lose one point from the baseline the whole match.”