Federer stunned by unfancied qualifier

Federer insisting at a press conference that he did not take his 70th-ranked opponent lightly.
Federer insisting at a press conference that he did not take his 70th-ranked opponent lightly.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas, returning against Roger Federer, produced the biggest win of his career and his first victory over a top-10 opponent. Federer insisting at a press conference that he did not take his 70th-ranked opponent lightly.
Spaniard Albert Ramos-Vinolas, returning against Roger Federer, produced the biggest win of his career and his first victory over a top-10 opponent.PHOTOS: REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Ramos-Vinolas is lowest-ranked player to beat maestro in over 2 years; Pennetta loses in Tianjin

SHANGHAI • Roger Federer, the 17-time Grand Slam winner, crashed out to little-known Spanish left-hander Albert Ramos-Vinolas in a major shock in the Shanghai Masters second round yesterday.

Defending champion Federer was stunned 7-6 (7-4), 2-6, 6-3 by the world No. 70, who is yet to claim his first career title and has only won three matches in total at the Grand Slam tournaments.

The 34-year-old Swiss gave a thin smile and a wave to the crowd as he exited a shocked Qi Zhong Stadium, where he lifted the trophy last year and also won the Tennis Masters Cup in 2006 and 2007.

Ramos-Vinolas is the lowest-ranked competitor to beat the world No. 3 in more than two years, since he lost to Argentina's No. 114 Federico Delbonis in the Hamburg semi-finals in July 2013.

"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," said Federer, who saved five match points against Leonardo Mayer in his opening match last year. "The balls play very different than in other places. Last year I got lucky. This year I didn't."

Federer, who had a bye in the first round, had played Ramos-Vinolas only once before, in the first round of Wimbledon in 2012, dropping just three games in a 6-1, 6-1, 6-1 dismissal of the Spaniard.

But it was a very different story in Shanghai as he struggled to impose himself in the first set and collapsed in the tie-breaker with a string of unforced errors.

Order was seemingly restored as the great Swiss broke early in the second set and again for 5-2, before calmly serving it out to level the match. But disaster struck as he served at 2-3 down in the third, when he dished up a double break point and then clipped the net before Ramos-Vinolas punched away a forehand for his first break of the night.

Federer caused his own downfall in the final game as he netted a forehand to bring up match point, and then misfired a backhand return to leave a disbelieving Ramos-Vinolas saluting the crowd.

It was the biggest win of the 27-year-old's career and his first victory over a top-10 opponent.

Before yesterday, the qualifier was 0-15 against top 10 players and had won just two sets. But Federer insisted he did not underestimate Ramos-Vinolas.

"I played him at Wimbledon before, so I knew him. I've seen him play. He's definitely improved since then. That was a while back and that was not his favourite surface," Federer told reporters.

There was a big upset at the Tianjin Open yesterday too, with top seed and US Open champion and Flavia Pennetta making a first-round exit at the hands of a qualifier ranked more than 400 places below her. The Italian world No. 8 went out to Ukrainian Lyudmyla Kichenok - ranked 414th - in straight sets, 6-3, 7-5.

She entered the Tianjin tournament with an eye towards qualifying for the WTA Finals in Singapore. But that may now be in jeopardy after her second early exit in as many weeks.

She is currently No. 8 on the Road to Singapore leader board, with the likes of Venus Williams (No. 11) breathing down her neck.

Seven-time Grand Slam winner Williams battled through a gruelling first-round match at the Hong Kong Open yesterday, beating unseeded Yuliya Beygelzimer 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 14, 2015, with the headline 'FEDERER STUNNED BY UNFANCIED QUALIFIER'. Print Edition | Subscribe