After winning just one title in 2013 (the lowest number since 2001), Roger Federer bounced back a year later to conquer two fastest Masters 1000 events in Cincinnati and Shanghai, alongside Dubai, Halle and Basel, finishing second behind Novak Djokovic in the rankings.
The Swiss maestro stayed away from the Masters 1000 titles for two years after Cincinnati 2012 before changing that two years later, lifting the first trophy in Shanghai 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 managed to escape the same fate, fending off five match points against Leonardo Mayer to gain a massive boost for the rest of the tournament. The Swiss had to play 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 whom he beat in the previous four matches after losing the opening two encounters back in 2008.
Gilles ousted the names like 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 but still had to win both sets in the tie break to secure the title at the Qizhong Tennis Center, his 23rd at this level since the first win in Hamburg 2002. Simon served at only 51% but managed to draw the most from his initial shot to save six out of seven break chances and make Roger run for his money.
Federer was more efficient on both the first and second serve, repelling two out of three break points and forcing a lot of errors from his opponent which secured the victory for him the win in the end. The Swiss had the edge in both the shortest and more extended rallies and needed those sharp and aggressive groundstrokes against the rival who was on virtually every ball, moving beautifully around the court and taming his shots from both wings to keep the chances alive from start to finish.
A backhand down the line winner gave Simon two break points in the very first game, converting the first one when Roger played a loose forehand to make a dream start in one of the most important encounters in a career. Gilles' backhand worked like a charm and he held at love to confirm the break and move 2-0 up, firing another good serve to wrap up the fourth game as well for a 3-1 advantage.
In the meanwhile, Federer found the rhythm in his games but had only one chance to pull the break back and prolong the set at 4-5 when Simon served for the opener. This game is always tricky for server to master and Gilles netted a routine backhand to suffer a break, allowing Roger to level the score at 5-5 and take the momentum ahead of the remaining games.
Three service winners pushed Federer 6-5 up, creating two set points on the return in the next game to avoid the tie break and steal the set in the perfect moment. Gilles repelled them both and brought the game home with an ace to set up a tie break where he forced an error from Roger to create a 3-2 gap.
Federer won the next 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 a weak backhand from Roger and erased another one, attacking the weaker wing of his opponent to force an error and stay on the positive side of the scoreboard.
Federer squandered another opportunity at 3-3 and Simon had 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 own serve in the next points, moving closer to the finish line and sealing the deal after a forehand mistake from Simon to claim his first title in Shanghai despite the fact he could have lost both sets against the persistent and resolute rival who enjoyed one of his best weeks on the Tour.