After skipping the first edition of the Shanghai Masters 1000 event in 2009, Roger Federer made a debut a year later as one of the title favorites on a fast hard surface. Federer had kicked off that season with the title at the Australian Open before losing ground at Roland Garros and Wimbledon where he failed to reach the semis and defend crowns won a year ago, bouncing back in Montreal and Cincinnati to get ready for the US Open.
There, he lost that memorable semi-final to Novak Djokovic in five sets before taking a month off and returning to action at the penultimate Masters 1000 event of the season. One of the fastest courts on the Tour suited Roger's game well, passing John Isner, Andreas Seppi and Robin Soderling after suffering only one break of serve, advancing into the semi-final where Novak Djokovic stood between him and the place in the final.
It was the 17th meeting between Roger and Novak and the third of the season following Canada and the US Open, with the Swiss scoring a 7-5, 6-4 triumph in an hour and 42 minutes for the 11th victory over the Serb. Federer did more damage with the first serve, prevailing in the pivotal moments to leave world no.
2 behind and stay on the title course, ready to batt against Andy Murray for the crown. Taming his strokes nicely, the Swiss had more winners and fewer unforced errors, leaving Novak far behind in the mid-range and most extended rallies to seal the deal in straight sets and reach the 28th Masters 1000 final.
Novak gave his best to stay in touch and grab another victory over Roger after that thrilling clash at the US Open, creating five break opportunities (four in the fourth game of the match) and converting only one, unable to impose his shots in the more vivid rallies and keep his serve safe at least until the tie break.
Djokovic's opening two service games went to deuce, staying focused to avoid break points and creating one of his own in the fourth game, wasting it after a loose drop shot and squandering the second when Roger hit a service winner and the third after a forehand winner from the Swiss who landed a perfect backhand crosscourt winner to deny the fourth break chance.
This turned out to be one of the most significant games of the entire encounter that game Roger a massive boost, playing against only one break point in the rest of the match and mounting the pressure on the other side of the net.
From 30-0 down, Federer grabbed four straight points to bring the eighth game home and level the score at 4-4, holding after deuce in the tenth game to prolong the set and stealing Novak's serve in the next game to move 6-5 up following a backhand error from the Serb.
Serving for the set, Roger fired an ace down the T line for a 7-5 after grueling 63 minutes, passing all the obstacles to emerge at the top and hoping for more of the same in set number two. There, he broke Djokovic in the very first game after a forehand error from the Serb and cemented the break with a service winner that sent him 2-0 in front.
A smash winner delivered another break for Federer at 3-1, forging a massive advantage but losing focus in the next game, allowing Novak to pull one break back and stay within one break deficit. The Serb held at 15 in game seven and produced another reliable service game to reduce the deficit to 5-4, allowing Federer to serve for the win in the next game.
In a manner of a true champion, Roger fired three winners in that tenth game to seal the deal and advance into the final, his fourth at the Masters 1000 level in 2010.