Federer Saves Set Points, Staves Off Goffin’s Aggressive Plan

Roger Federer was pushed like few times before in his FedEx ATP Head2Head rivalry with David Goffin on Thursday at the Rolex Shanghai Masters. But the outcome followed a familiar pattern.

Federer saved five set points in the opener and then rolled into his 87th ATP Masters 1000 quarter-final 7-6(7), 6-4. The Swiss will meet the winner of German Alexander Zverev, who’s looking to bolster his Nitto ATP Finals hopes, or Russian Andrey Rublev in the last eight.

Federer fell to Rublev in August at the Western & Southern Open, another hard-court Masters 1000 event in Cincinnati, and Federer and Zverev last faced off in the semi-finals of the 2018 Nitto ATP Finals, which Zverev won en route to the biggest title of his career.

Goffin had the right plan against the 38-year-old Swiss, charging forward and playing aggressively. The Belgian had beaten Federer only once in their 10 meetings, at the 2017 Nitto ATP Finals. But after he erased a set point at 4-5 on his serve, Goffin broke Federer and had the set on his racquet, serving at 6-5.

Two missed forehands and a double fault, though, saw three set points come and go in the 12th game. In the tie-break, Goffin had a set point as Federer served at 5/6, but the Swiss erased it with a laser inside-out forehand. Goffin saw another set point on his serve, at 7/6, but a backhand wide kept Federer in it, and the two-time Shanghai champion clinched his second set point.

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Goffin rebounded in the second set, but Federer broke in the seventh game when Goffin netted a forehand approach. The Belgian was looking to add 90 points to his ATP Race To London tally by making the quarter-finals. The 2017 Nitto ATP Finals runner-up (l. to Dimitrov) is currently in ninth place in the Race (2,325 points), only 20 points behind Zverev (2,345), who holds the eighth and final qualification spot.