From my column
today in The Oregonian:
Roger Federer on Wednesday saved five match points in his first Shanghai match, and you had to feel for his journeyman opponent, Leonardo Mayer, who was holding back tears at the end. Federer called the win his "greatest escape," and he should know. He's had his share over the years. He had a gutsy one at the U.S. Open just last month against Gael Monfils. And how about when he came back from 2-6 down in the second-set tiebreaker in the 2009 Wimbledon final against Andy Roddick, saving himself from falling behind by two sets?
More painfully, he's also been on the other end of his share. The two greatest escapes against Federer? There's David Nalbandian upending him in the 2005 year-end championships after Federer rolled to a two-set lead. The loss kept Federer from matching John McEnroe for the best single-season record in the Open era. And, of course, there's Novak Djokovic hitting the service return heard 'round the world in the 2011 U.S. Open semifinals, the very mention of which still makes every Federer fan's heart hurt.
Federer this week is aiming for his first Shanghai title, which would be his second Masters 1000 tournament victory of the season. He didn't need clutch heroics in his match today, besting Roberto Bautista Agut 6-4, 6-2 to reach the quarterfinals. Next up is fellow veteran Julien Benneteau, the best player to never win an ATP title. If Federer wins that one, he'll likely face a streaking Djokovic in the semifinals. The other side of the draw is wide open, with No. 6 Tomas Berdych the highest seed remaining.