SHANGHAI: For the second straight year, Roger Federer found himself in trouble in his opening match at the Shanghai Masters.
This time, he couldn’t pull through.
The 17-time Grand Slam champion was broken late in the third set against Spanish qualifier Albert Ramos-Vinolas on Tuesday and lost 7-6 (4), 2-6, 6-3.
Federer was in a similar situation last year against Leonardo Mayer, but it ended very differently. He saved five match points before finally prevailing, and going on to win the tournament.
“Last year I got lucky,” Federer said. “This year I didn’t. So it’s a pity.”
Federer started off slowly against the 70th-ranked Ramos-Vinolas, failing to convert two break points in the opening set and making a flurry of backhand errors to lose the tiebreaker. He captured the second set with ease, winning every point on his first serve, but Ramos-Vinolas got the only break in the third set and held on to close it out.
It was the Spaniard’s first win against a top-10 player in 16 matches.
“After second set I thought it will be like always, I will lose,” Ramos-Vinolas said. “At the end after the break, I thought, OK, maybe I can do it.”
The last time Federer and Ramos-Vinolas played, at Wimbledon in 2012, the Spaniard won only three games.
“I’m always cautious,” Federer said. “I don’t underestimate or lack respect for anybody out there. These guys are all touring professionals, they know what they’re doing.”
Federer hasn’t played since helping Switzerland win a Davis Cup match the week after losing to Novak Djokovic in the U.S. Open final. He arrived in Shanghai early to have time to adjust to the time zone and conditions, but still didn’t feel comfortable on Stadium Court.
“I just think the first round here in Shanghai has always been historically quite difficult, getting used to the conditions and the surface and the balls,” Federer said. “But he did a good job. You could see he’s been in the groove.”
Ramos-Vinolas has been on a roll, albeit in lower-tier tournaments. Last month, he was asked to play the Catalonia championships near his home — and he won.
“I was resting at home. (The tournament) was close to my house. I played the tournament just like a practice,” the Spaniard said. “I think I cannot compare with this match today.”
In another second-round match, former U.S. Open champion Marin Cilic defeated Borna Coric 6-1, 6-2, a day after saving a match point to win his first-round match.
Also, ninth-seeded Milos Raonic of Canada beat Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil 7-6 (5), 7-6 (2); No. 10 Gilles Simon of France beat Georgian qualifier Nikoloz Basilashvili 6-3, 4-6, 6-0; No. 11 Richard Gasquet defeated Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 7-6 (4), 6-2; Jo-Wilfried Tsonga of France beat Victor Estrella Burgos 6-3, 6-2; and No. 12 Kevin Anderson of South Africa eliminated 37-year-old Tommy Haas of Germany 6-3, 7-5.
Haas, a former second-ranked player, has won only two matches in eight tournaments since returning from arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder earlier this year.