The Swiss did not drop serve all evening, cannoning down 11 aces in an hour’s work to book a showdown with Richard Gasquet in the quarterfinals. Dolgopolov did little wrong on the evening but he coughed up break points at inopportune moments and Federer, playing in Shanghai for the first time since 2015, seized them with ruthless efficiency.
The four previous meetings had all gone the way of Federer but few could deny that the Ukrainian has raised his level in recent months and he was riding a four-match winning run after emerging from the qualifying rounds.
He boasts a technically flawless service motion and an aggressive forehand and they were on display early against the world number two, but Federer withstood the siege and broke on Dolgopolov’s opening service game.
A pair of wicked forehand returns from the Swiss – one clocked at 162 km/ph – constructed a pair of break points. Federer squandered the first but he converted the next that came his way; coaxing a forehand error from the Ukrainian.
He consolidated the break of serve with a hold to 15 and the set became somewhat of a serving exhibition as Dolgopolov settled into a familiar rhythm. Three successive holds to 15 from the Ukrainian sharpened Federer’s focus and it wasn't until the tenth game – with the Swiss serving for the set – where Dolgopolov began to pressure Federer’s deal.
An exquisite backhand pass as the world number two darted to the net fashioned the Ukrainian’s only break point opportunity of the match but an errant forehand halted any hope of a revival. Federer swept the next three points in a row and closed out the opening stanza in 27 minutes.
Swiss takes control
The Swiss threatened on Dolgopolov’s opening service game yet again as he carved out an opening but the Ukrainian stood tall. That was until the fifth game of the set.
Having failed to sustain consistent pressure on Federer’s serve Dolgopolov’s concentration wavered at 2-2 on his own deal and he gifted the 36-year-old an advantage. At 15-30 Federer took control of the rally and slapped a forehand winner from mid-court past his befuddled opponent. The first of two break points were saved but the Swiss smothered the second, finding great depth off his return and forcing Dolgopolov to dump his forehand into the net.
Thereafter it was one-way traffic, with Federer securing the double break in an eight-minute service game at 4-2. In stark contrast to the preceding set and a half both players were struggling to build two points in succession but it was Federer who guided a mesmerizing backhand return down the line on break point. Fittingly he closed out the match with an ace down the tee.