Shanghai R3 previews and predictions: Nadal vs. Fognini, Federer vs. Dolgopolov

Rafael Nadal will be facing familiar foe Fabio Fognini when they take the court for third-round competition on Thursday in Shanghai. A quarterfinal spot will also be on the line when Roger Federer goes up against Alexandr Dolgopolov.

(1) Rafael Nadal vs. Fabio Fognini

Nadal and Fognini will be squaring off for the 13th time in their careers when they meet again round three of the Shanghai Rolex Masters on Thursday. The head-to-head series stands at 9-3 in favor of Nadal, who is 4-1 against Fognini on hard courts and 4-0 overall in their last four since the Italian pulled off a stunning five-set upset at the 2015 U.S. Open. The Spaniard has prevailed twice in 2017; 6-1, 7-5 in the Miami semifinals and 7-6(3), 3-6, 6-4 on the clay courts of Madrid.

Possible fatigue suggests this may be a favorable time for Fognini to get another win over Nadal, but current form does not. The world No. 1 is riding a 13-match winning streak that includes titles at the U.S. Open and in Beijing. Nadal showed no signs of slowing down when he clobbered Jared Donaldson 6-2, 6-1 in a lightning-quick 54 minutes on Wednesday. Fognini has advanced with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 defeat of Fernando Verdasco and a 7-6(7), 6-3 victory over Lucas Pouille. The world No. 28 is a respectable 34-20 this season with a 6-2 record this fall that includes a runner-up performance in St. Petersburg. Nadal may run out of gas at some point this week, but he is playing too well and will be too motivated against this particular opponent to suffer a third-round exit.

Pick: Nadal in 2

(Q) Alexandr Dolgopolov vs. (2) Roger Federer

Federer remained mathematically alive in the race with Nadal for the year-end No. 1 ranking when he beat Diego Schwartzman 7-6(4), 6-4 on Wednesday. The 36-year-old Swiss is playing for this first time since the U.S. Open, where he reached the quarterfinals despite a bad back and then lost to Juan Martin Del Potro. Federer is an awesome 40-4 this season with major titles at the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

Up next for the second seed on Thursday is Dolgopolov, who is 0-4 in the head-to-head series and 0-9 in total sets. Their two most recent encounters have come at Grand Slams, with Federer cruising 6-3, 7-5, 6-1 at the 2016 Australian Open and getting a retirement while leading 6-3, 3-0 a few months ago at Wimbledon. Dolgopolov is healthy and in much better form now, with a recent fourth-round showing in New York and a runner-up finish in Shenzhen. The 41st-ranked Ukrainian has already won four matches in Shanghai–two in qualifying and at the expense of Jack Sock and Feliciano Lopez in the main draw. A plethora of matches in his legs and a much tougher opponent on the other side of the net will likely see the end of Dolgopolov’s run.

Pick: Federer in 2 losing 8 games or fewer

54 Comments on Shanghai R3 previews and predictions: Nadal vs. Fognini, Federer vs. Dolgopolov

    • You and others are underestimating Fed’s ability to work his way into form at a tournament like this. Just look what he did in 2014 at this exact event. He beat Mayer barely in round one, having to save multiple match points. Then he goes on to win the title. This year’s Fed is better than 2014 Fed too and don’t forget that this year’s Fed was a lot rustier at the start of both the Australian Open and Wimbledon, where he won. Now he hasn’t played since the US Open and he’s come back to a fast surface where his game should translate beautifully as always.

  1. Yes but in 2014 Nadal was injured and now he’s back, his backhand is bigger than ever and his serve is big (not quite bigger) but more accurate and varied than ever

  2. After watching my recording of Rafa’s match, I would not bet against him. He is feeling it right now. That was a clinic. His body language oozes confidence and thercus a clarity of thought and precision in his game. Rafa is just on his game.

    I am wondering if maybe he should keep playing. He is in such great form. Donaldson cane in playing well himself. But Rafa just destroyed him.

    Fog has no chance against this Rafa. I don’t think Dimi does either, if he gets past Querrey. Rafa is a mental beast right now, a man on a mission.

      • I know you asked NNY, Sanju, but I’d like to join the conversation. 🙂 Historically, the safe bet when they play each other post-US Open has been to pick Federer. However, aside from 2013 when Fed was a pathetic shadow of himself, I think this could be Rafa’s best shot at getting a post-US Open win over Fed. I can’t say that I would be ready to put money on it just yet, as Fed has historically played himself into very good form in Shanghai if he makes it through the early rounds. However, if Fed manages to nake the final by scraping by his opponents and struggling along the way, and Rafa continues blowing everyone away who he faces, then I would probably end up picking Rafa to beat Fed for his maiden Shanghai title. On the other hand, if Fed ends up getting into really good form on his favorite type of surface and manages to blow guys like Zverev off the court, then I would say it would have to be a 50/50 odds for both of them. So for me, making a prediction should they meet in the final depends a lot of how they each look heading into a potential showdown. They need to get there first, and they both have some potentially tough matches on the way there.

      • Sanju,

        Sorry I did not answer you sooner, but I just gave t back on here and saw your question. I see that Kevin gave his answer to you.

        I am keeping in mind that both Fed and Rafa have to get to the final. I know that conventional wisdom says that these courts give Fed the advantage. But Rafa is in exceptional form and is showing that he is comfortable on tgee courts. Rafa is brimming with confidence. You see it in his eyes, his body language. He knows what he wants to do.

        Confidence is everything to Rafa. Winning breeds winning and for Rafa it has all come together beautifully. I am enjoying watching Rafa feeling good and playing outstanding tennis.

        I like Rafa’s chances. This Rafa can beat Fed. I don’t see Rafa letting Fed beat him again on hard courts. This is a different Rafa than the one who played Fed in the AO final, I/W and Miami.

        • Agree with you NNY. For Rafa it’s not about the court surfaces but his confidence in his game. When he’s playing well he can win on fast HCs and also on grass.

          He said it himself (when he was asked how he managed to win at Montreal fast HCs when he’s only 19 yo in 2005, when most people viewed his tennis was at that time suited for clay), that he was playing with confidence and so it didn’t matter how the surface was. In that year, he even won on fast indoor HC at Madrid against big serving Ljuby, after coming back from two sets down in a BO5 final.

          I think if Fedal meet in the final, Rafa will get his win over Fed.

        • Thanks nny, Kevin , lucky for your views. Hope it comes true.

          Worried about dimitrov tomorrow.

          Gasquet and simon are at it for so long now that fed will sweep the floor with either.

  3. It’s tough to imagine Rafa being troubled by Fognini when he’s this confident and focused. But also Fognini has this possible Grand Slam suspension hanging over his head, and he knows that everyone think he’s a piece of shit asshole, so I can’t imagine that his head will really be in the match… Although is his head ever really in the match haha?

  4. Talk about being his own worst enemy. It seems marriage and a new baby have done nothing to calm him down. He is such a Jekyll and Hyde character. Living under the cloud of the threatened suspension is bound to affect him – it will be intriguing to see how he copes with being fettered.

    #Make or break looming

    • I did not know that Fog is under threat of suspension. I think maybe that might be what he needs.

      I just can’t see Rafa having a problem with Fog. Rafa is just too focused right now,

  5. To those who say Rafa shouldn’t have played the Asian swing:

    Q. Roger yesterday said he thought maybe you would have withdrawn from Beijing because you had a lot to do after the US Open and then the Laver Cup, but that, as you are so professional, you went to Beijing and even won it. How did you feel coming into this Asian swing? As tired as Roger said, or…
    RAFAEL NADAL: No, last week I was not tired. No, no, I was ready to play and I play. No, no, is an important part of the season, and if my body holds at important events, Beijing has been an event that I fighted to win for a while, so I was not able to make that happen. Finally I did this year.

    Was important tournament for me, important moment, and am playing good tennis. And now here we are in Shanghai and is another important event for me. Is just another Masters 1000 that I gonna fight to be ready for compete the best way possible.

    Let’s see if I am able to make that happen. We practice now and hope to have the positive feelings and be ready for tomorrow. That’s all. I go day by day, and my calendar always depends on my body feelings and my mental feelings. I felt ready to be here, and here I am. So what’s go later, I don’t know.

    • Kavita, please don’t worry, R. Federer will win shanghai and it doesn’t matter who he meets in the final.
      This tournament has been over the moment R. Federer decided to play in it.

      His biggest obstacle is not R. Nadal, he will take care business when the time comes.
      Health is his problem and i know he is better than he was at the US OPEN.

      If Rafa makes it to the final that would be a gift to RF not because Rafa hasn’t been amazing but because Roger is the best and the way he defeated Rafito this year even during tough situations has been classic, Rogerlicious, Incredible to the end.

      #don’tworry
      #shanghaiiscominghome
      #thekingisback
      #yeahbaby

  6. Wow, Rafa looking scary good out there! Great serving, fantastic backhand, killer forehand, moving extremely well on this fast surface and makes only 4 UEs! Such a joy to watch!

    Vamos Rafa!

  7. YEEESSSSS!!….WOOOOHOOOOO!!…Alhamdulillah!Victory once again!!…But,is it just me or i thought his perfomance against Donaldson was better than today??IMO,he’s also not aiming his FH DTL often against Fognini even tho that space was empty and is there for the taking..He seems happy to just engaged Fognini to his BH all the time…Why is that??Is it because the insecurity creeping back into his mind?Even for a tiny bit?..Any thought Lucky?Or VR??

    • Insecurity? It’s more like showing respect for Foggy. Can’t compare Jared to Foggy, Foggy is more experienced and strikes the ball much better than Jared.

      When Foggy decides to play, even the top players find it hard to contain him and needs to work hard to do so. I’m just glad Rafa wasted no time and effort in containing him today.

  8. it is given that his match against Jared was technical much easier because Jared is inexperience compared to Fog who is much steadier than Jared. Aside from that, fog has defeated rafa in 3 occasions and one of those matches he won against Rafa was in the US Open 2015.

  9. Vamos Rafa! Fog has been dispelled fast! Btw, yesterday Rafa was playing quickly – they showed the stat – both guys were averaging 22 secs per serve! Maybe playing shorter points he needs less time between serves?

  10. Hey Mira Andi, I didn’t see the match much apart from the first 3 games and looks like it was a thorough beat down. What insecurity are you talking about?

    • I agree with atul. I am watching my recording of the match now. I think Rafa has been in complete control. Fog is playing well, but can’t do anything against Rafa in this form.

      I think the difference is in the opponents. Donaldson came into that match playing well, but he is less experienced and pretty much fell apart quickly with no answers. But Fog is a savvy veteran with a lot more experience and quality shots, yet he was only able to win one more game in this match than Donaldson.

      I don’t see any sign of insecurity from Rafa at all. I think his tactics will change from match to match depending on the opponent.

      I am interested to see what happens with Dimi. If Rafa demolishes him, then watch out!

  11. Dolgo looking slow against Fed. What’s with all these players, they may be able to serve big but they can’t return well. Dolgo is one of those; maybe they simply concentrate on the serves but not the returns?

    The big four are so good because they are not only good with their serves but also in their ROS!

    A player like Dolgo won’t trouble Fed but a better returner like Schwartzman would. Fed has to fight harder vs Schwartzman, Simon may be next should he (Simon) get past Gasquet.

    • Fabio Fognini played nonsense today, he lost because a lot was on his mind, he was too distracted,

      R. Nadal defeated G. Dimitrov in 3 sets at Beijing(semifinal), they meet again in the quarterfinal in shanghai, this would have been beautiful if R. Federer wasn’t playing but i want Rafito to progress cos i want a Fedal again & again & again till the season ends because i know who will win, we all do, yes we all do.

      G. Dimitrov better not win this match, i am begging him please let R. Nadal win plzzzzzz.

      I am not sure he would listen to me but if he does, thanks in advance.

      #ThankU

    • True, Lucky, even though Fed beat Simon in straight sets for the Shanghai title in 2014, Simon actually really gave him a run for his money and was actually up a break in both sets if I recall correctly? Assuming Del Po can get through this in-form Troicki, we could be heading for Fed-Potro 2017 Round 3! That will be an exciting match if it happens!

  12. Rafa’s serve looks very fast. It did not look that quick in USO , was better in Beijing, but this looks to b another level. Saves time, keeps points shorter. Rafa should be fresh as the two matches were just the right sort of start that was required. Tomorrow will be tough, but he should come thru.

  13. Looks like Rafa has the toughest QF opponent. I hope he wins and in straight sets this time.

    I feel we may be seeing Fedal vs the two giants in the SFs, and, all are slam winners!

    • I am so impressed with how efficiently Rafa is winning now. No long baseline rallies hanging out too far behind the baseline. No wasting opportunities and getting into longer matches.

      This is good for Rafa’s body. He is grtt g through these early rounds efficiently and without expending too much effort.

      Rafa is not going to get fatigued playing this kind of tennis.

      • It’s almost kinda frustrating, NNY, why he didn’t play more like this in the last 4 years… When he was struggling with confidence and mental strength due to insecurity in his body holding up, he could have made things much easier and effective by playing aggressively and looking to end points faster. It’s so great to see him doing now with so much success, but it’s almost like, why couldn’t you have at least tried to play like this sooner? It could have helped his mental issues so much!

        • It comes with a lot of confidence, lot of victories behind your back. He is far more confident now than his early part of season in AO, IW or in Miami.

          Its very aggressive now . Just no fear of failure.

  14. It’s such a joy to watch Rafa. So glad to see him reap the benefits of his hard work. In 2015, he said he had problems with his game that he didn’t know how long it would take but he would work hard to fix it and he has.

    One match at a time. I still get nervous when he walks onto the court, because in tennis, nothing is certain, there are too many variables and he is playing other good players, so nothing can be taken for granted, even though Rafa is playing sublime tennis atm.

      • Out of 10 meetings, R. Nadal has only defeated G. Dimitrov twice in straight sets and those straight set wins were on clay.

        G. Dimitrov has won a set in their last 4 meetings, Dimi defeated Rafa in straight sets in Beijing(2016).
        I wasn’t impressed with Dimitrov in his 1st match in shanghai, he defeated R. Harrison in 3 sets but stepped it up against S. Querrey.

        I would love to see G. Dimitrov defeat Rafa again not because i hate Rafito, i like Nadal a lot but since R. Federer is playing let him handle it.

        You guys love to make unnecessary noise, belittle the wins of those who have defeated R. Nadal by making unfair & biased excuses, i want nadal to win ok cos R. Federer will be waiting 4 him.

        This time around Rafito won’t be the only one smoked, you guys will be smoked as well, i don’t smoke but on that day i will smoke a Rafito lol!

        I will talk to u guy’s later, i will be busy for like 3-4 hrs but if i see any crazy comments i will be back immediately.

        Your love,
        Stanley.

  15. Yes, it’s all about his confidence; confidence in his game and in his body.

    He was aggressive when he’s able to play well, like during 2008/2010/2013 and now. He played aggressive tennis during FO/Wimbledon 2008; during USO and Tokyo 2010; during NA HC swing 2013.

    I re-watched his Tokyo Open 2010 matches recently and they reminded me of how well Rafa could play on the HCs, he was really at the top of his game during that period of time, serving aces, hitting with precision and not missing much. I have almost forgotten just how good he was back then, perhaps that’s because 2010 seemed so long ago, being overshadowed by his recent poor seasons of 2015/2016.

    I feel Rafa wasn’t really playing poorly on the HCs, it’s more to do with him spending most of his energy during the clay season (I have to say Rafa loved to grind on clay in the past) that by the second half of the HC season, he practically had nothing much left in his tank to last till the end of the season.

    We saw a different Rafa this clay season, when he wasn’t grinding on clay but preferred to play shorter points more offensive tennis. I guess that helps in conserving his energy and putting less strain on his body and so we are seeing a fit and healthy Rafa even during this part of the season.

    It’s really a pleasant surprise, to see Rafa being so fit and healthy and playing such smooth flowing, offensive and precise tennis, and being so clutch that he’s able to fend off all those BPs threats with his great serving. I’m very happy to see such a Rafa playing out there.

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