Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer had met in the Masters 1000 final for the first time in Miami 2005, standing above all the rivals in Shanghai 12 and a half years later to reach the title match in the penultimate Masters 1000 event of the season.
It was their 38th match on the Tour and Roger Federer scored his 15th win over Rafa in a dominant fashion, toppling the great rival 6-4, 6-3 in just 72 minutes on October 15 for his 94th ATP title and 27th at Masters 1000 level, the second in Shanghai after 2014.
Starting from Basel 2015, this had been the fifth consecutive win for Federer over Nadal, his best streak against the Spaniard that included seven straight sets won since that epic clash in the final of the Australian Open in January.
Just like at Indian Wells and Miami, Roger did just about everything right on the court to oust Rafa, using the indoor conditions and one of the fastest hard courts on the Tour and ruining Nadal's chances of taking the first Shanghai crown.
It was a critical encounter for the Spaniard who had won the last 16 matches starting from the US Open, seeking both the first title in Shanghai and to seal the year-end no. 1 position, only to experience a tough loss. As was expected, Federer was in the attacking mode right from the start, taking the ball early and keeping the points on his racquet almost all the time.
His serve worked like a charm, supplementing that with a marvelous performance from his groundstrokes that kept him away from the unforced errors and in the safety zone with his backhand, just like he did in the first part of the season.
The Swiss served at 68%, losing just eight points in eight service games and earning the freedom to attack on the return and keep Nadal under constant pressure. The Spaniard landed 74% of the first serve in but that didn't give him much besides a respectable number of service winners.
He was unable to deal with Roger's deep returns or to impose his shots with the first groundstroke, standing inferior in the exchanges and finishing the clash with just five winners from the court! Besides that, Nadal's backhand was nowhere near his usual level, never looking like a player who could have turned the result into his favor, not against the rival who prepared a masterclass game plan and carried it out completely.
We had never seen a deuce in Roger's games, with the Swiss doing more than enough on the return to create seven break chances and convert three of those, bringing the match safely over the finish line. Both players had 21 service winners but the problem for Nadal was in the fact that his initial stroke represented his best shot of the match, not a usual pattern towards success for the Spanish giant.
Roger was the dominant figure from the field, firing 17 winners (nine forehands and five from his backhand wing) and leaving Nadal far behind, creating a huge gap in that segment. Also, Federer had just seven unforced errors, an impressive number considering how aggressive he was, while Nadal counted to 15, hitting ten from his backhand alone.
The Swiss made three forced errors more (11-8) but that was irrelevant for the overall score since he had the upper hand in both the shortest and more extended rallies, another clear sign of his domination in this encounter.
He was 38-31 in front in the points up to four strokes and the advantage in the mid-range exchanges from five to eight shots was even more significant, winning 17 out of 26. Only ten points had reached the ninth shot and Federer didn't stay behind in them either, taking six to outplay Nadal fair and square.
Roger couldn't have hoped for a better start, his return and backhand worked well from the very first point to break Nadal in the first game of the match. He returned six of Nadal's eight serves and earned a break with two backhand winners which proved to be very important for the rest of the clash.
Federer moved 2-0 in front with two service winners and two errors from Nadal before the Spaniard put his name on the scoreboard in the next game with three service winners. They both lost two points on serve in the next two games but a service winner was enough for them to bring the games home, with Roger moving 4-2 up after cracking four unreturnable serves in game six.
Everything worked well for him so far, his serve made a lot of damage, with the edge over Nadal from the baseline as well to control the scoreboard. After losing his serve in that opening game, Nadal dropped just two points in the next three service games and closed all of them with a service winner, which was his most efficient shot.
In games eight and nine, we saw four winners from both and Roger had a chance to serve out for the opener in the tenth game. He did that in style, wrapping up a set after 35 minutes with an additional four winners, happy with the way he performed in this first part of the clash with a great rival.
They had 12 service winners each but Roger created a huge gap with the direct points from the court, leading 9-3. He also committed a fewer number of unforced errors, four against six from Nadal, with both hitting four forced errors.
Federer lost only four points on serve, delivering risky shots and winning ten out of 14 mid-range rallies to leave Nadal empty-handed. Roger won two points on the return at the beginning of the second set before Nadal closed the game by forcing an error from his opponent, with the Swiss hitting two service winners in game two to make the result even at 1-1.
Rafa moved in front once again in game three thanks to three service winners (he was already on 17 but would get only four until the end of the match) and reached 30-30 on the return in the next game before Roger held with two winners.
In the past six service games, Rafa struggled to find the rhythm but at least avoided deuces or break opportunities, with that all changing in game five when Roger broke him to open up a 3-2 lead. The Spaniard had only two service winners in ten points and didn't feel comfortable without more free points since Roger still pushed strong with his groundstrokes.
Federer had three winners and created two break chances, converting the second one when Nadal sent another backhand wide to pretty much seal his fate in this match. Roger was in full control now and jumped into a 4-2 lead after another comfortable hold in game six, hitting two service winners and one from his backhand for another big step towards the title.
Nadal reduced the deficit to 4-3 with a volley winner in game seven, only his fourth from the court, unable to do anything on the return in the next game as Roger blasted three more unreturned serves for a 5-3 advantage. After just 69 minutes, Nadal was forced to serve to stay in the match and the pressure was too big to handle, getting broken for the third time to hand the win to his rival.
Roger opened the game with a winner and didn't have to do much in the remaining points since Nadal made three errors to see the writings on the wall, closing the encounter with a loose forehand right after the serve. That last forehand he played pretty much summarized Nadal's entire performance from the baseline on that day, needing much better numbers if he wanted to stay on the level terms with Federer who overpowered him completely to lift his second Shanghai crown.