The on-court play took over from the off-court stories Tuesday at the Tennis Masters Cup in Shanghai, with Roger Federer of Switzerland and David Nalbandian of Argentina serving up victories. The world number one Federer beat Croatia's Ivan Ljubicic, 6-3, 2-6, 7-6, while Nalbadian topped countryman Guillermo Coria, 7-5, 6-4. Chris Bowers was courtside and has this report.
After a day of recriminations following Monday's withdrawals of Andre Agassi and Rafael Nadal, the Tennis Masters Cup needed an injection of quality tennis. And it got it in two matches which gave the faithful in the purpose-built Qi Zhong stadium much to delight in.
The one in which Roger Federer beat Ivan Ljubicic was almost a classic, and if these two meet
in Sunday's best-of-five-sets final, it may well be a classic. Both men used every part of the court and every shot in their armory. Ljubicic came within two points of winning, but Federer eclipsed him for the fifth time this year, the third time on a final set tiebreak.
That was a wonderful antidote to the anger and frustration expressed by the tournament owners and Shanghai government representatives earlier in the day. They chose to reignite the smoldering embers of Monday's withdrawals by attacking the ATP for not having its players in adequate shape, and even attacking Agassi himself.
Ever the diplomat, Federer doused the flames by saying everyone is disappointed but the players are genuinely injured.
"I think next year again the top players will be here and hopefully back in shape," he says. "I understand the big disappointment from the government, from the tournament, from the fans. Also I am disappointed because I can not play against them. But I think we will still see some great tennis this week. I think everybody wants to play but was just not able to."
At least he is fit, and following David Nalbandian's win over Guillermo Coria in two tight sets, Federer is now guaranteed a semi-final place.