Playing doubles isn’t something you usually associate with Roger Federer, but the financial incentives and his declining singles career results in the 17-time Grand Slam champion to team up with Chinese player Ze Zhang in the Shanghai Masters.
It’s not like Federer hasn’t played doubles before. He has a gold medal with Stanislas Wawrinka from the Beijing Olympics, and even reached the final of the Indian Wells with Wawrinka back in 2011. But when you add his dropping form (losing in the fourth round of the US Open most recently, adding yet another broken streak in a major tournament), his back problems and the career coming to an end very soon, making the most of the financial opportunities given to him is quite understandable.
Federer has been dealing with a bad back for the last couple of tennis seasons, so adding pressure and more matches to his schedule isn’t exactly the right formula to get better. But maybe Federer has given up. There are no more Grand Slam tournaments left until January of next year, so making money instead of going after singles titles he probably won’t win anyway might not be such a bad idea.
Federer probably does practice a lot less these days than the rest of the top 10 (and probably further down the rankings as well) do. At 32, for someone who isn’t exactly looking in top shape this year (only one title, no Grand Slam final and a terrible record against top 10 players), taking it down yet another notch sounds logical.
So why Zhang? The 23 year-old is currently tanked 163rd in the world, and his only success in Tennis has come in Future tournaments. He has yet to make it past the qualifiers in any of the Grand Slam tournament. What’s the connection to Federer? Money.
In their attempt to develop the game in China and expand the exposure, Federer has been recruited. Just like his commercial interests took him to matches in South America last year, he goes to Asia this year (Where he would have gone anyway for at least one tournament) in order to improve the situation on his bank account.
It’s not wrong, but you always feel that someone who has been so good for so long shouldn’t do things for money alone. However, if Federer himself truly believes that going after Masters and Grand Slam titles, making the most of his CV and maybe even start drifting towards a doubles career, than there’s nothing wrong with his Chinese adventure.