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Faulty Federer fights through in China

The Associated Press

Roger Federer lines up a return during his match against Daniil Medvedev at the Shanghai Masters on Wednesday.

AFPSHANGHAI (AFP-Jiji) — Roger Federer admitted that he came “very close” to defeat as he was given a huge scare before seeing off Daniil Medvedev 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 to open his Shanghai Masters defense on Wednesday.

The 37-year-old Swiss top seed faces Spain’s unseeded Roberto Bautista Agut on Thursday in the last 16 after what was an unconvincing start against the Russian.

The 20-time Grand Slam champion initially wasted little time stamping his mark on the tournament, breaking the 22nd-ranked Medvedev in the first game.

But Medvedev, 22, fresh from winning the Japan Open, broke back and enjoyed even more luck on Federer’s serve in the second set to force a third.

In what was the first meeting between the pair, Federer broke in the ninth game of the decider to finally destroy Medvedev’s resolve in just under 2 nail-biting hours.

“In the third set I really started to figure it out,” said Federer, who was roared on by a band of fanatical fans decked out in red tops. How aggressive or how tactical I wanted to make the match, and by trying everything, I found a solution at the end.”

Federer, who was uncharacteristically flustered at times, said he was pleased with his performance, but admitted it had been a nervy one.

“Of course I feel pressure from the tournament organizers, the fans, my team, myself, because I know that sometimes coming through a tough first round can be the key to what’s to come afterwards,” said the 2017 champion.

“Today was very close to maybe not getting that next step.”

With the exception of injured world number one Rafael Nadal, Federer’s chief rivals are all still in the mix.

Juan Martin del Potro and Alexander Zverev both defied illness to join Federer and Novak Djokovic in the next round.

Del Potro, the third seed, said he is suffering from a virus and reviewing his health “hour by hour,” after laboring past France’s Richard Gasquet.

The Argentine lost Sunday’s final of the China Open in Beijing to unseeded Nikoloz Basilashvili and afterward revealed he had been unwell.

Three days on and the 30-year-old continues to be under the weather, but just about did enough to see off Gasquet 7-5, 7-6 (9-7).

Between coughs at his postmatch press conference, Del Potro said: “It wasn’t easy to play for me today, I did what I can. I didn’t run too much.

“But I’m going like hour by hour and see how I’m feeling,” added Del Potro, who plays 13th seed Borna Coric of Croatia next in Shanghai.

“I got lucky that I won, but tomorrow will be a different day.

“If I have a good night today and I have a good recovery tomorrow morning, maybe I will feel a little bit better for tomorrow night and play better than today.”

Li’s example still inspires

HONG KONG (AFP-Jiji) — Li Na’s shining example and the explosion of tournaments in China after her Grand Slam wins has triggered the emergence of a new generation of Chinese players, the country’s top two women have said.

Wang Qiang, 26, and Zhang Shuai, 29, said confidence was now growing among Chinese players after a quiet spell since trailblazer Li, a two-time Grand Slam winner, retired in 2014.

Wang Qiang, ranked 24th, and 40th-placed Zhang head a list of four Chinese players in the current top 100, and there are 11 in the top 200 including 17-year-old U.S. Open junior champion Wang Xiyu.

“Li Na has given us all a lot of hope,” Zhang said at the Hong Kong Open.

“When she won the Grand Slams I think more people decided to try tennis and try to believe in themselves.

“Now we have so many tournaments in China I think a lot of young players have more opportunities to make a higher ranking.”

Zhang, who turned professional in 2006, said the game was now a big hit among Chinese fans. China has seven WTA Tour-level tournaments this year.

“For sure it’s more popular than it was five years ago because unlike with other sports, almost every week there is a big tournament,” she said.Speech

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