Roger Federer (left) teamed with Zhang Ze for his first doubles win of the year. (Peter Parks/AFP/Getty Images)
SHANGHAI -- Roger Federer recorded a season first on Monday: a doubles victory.
Federer teamed with China No. 1 Zhang Ze to beat Kevin Anderson and Dmitry Tursunov 6-2, 6-1 in the first round of the Shanghai Masters. The 17-time Grand Slam singles champion usually partners with other Swiss players or his good friends when he plays doubles -- Federer has played only one other doubles tournament this year, an opening-round loss with Tommy Haas in Halle, Germany -- but he wanted to do something different in Shanghai. He signed on to form Team FeZerer (™ Roger Federer) with Zhang, ranked No. 271, at the suggestion of the tournament director.
"I thought, That's great, that's good for the game, good for tennis here in China," Federer said after the match. "That's kind of the ultimate goal, to partner up with a Chinese up‑and‑coming player and promote the game at the same time. I'm just so happy for Zhang Ze, that he played really well. He couldn't have played any better."
Here are some highlights from their victory (via YouTube user nico tennis):
Asked how the two communicated their tactics, the 23-year-old Zhang, who sat silently through much of their joint interview wearing translation headphones, leaned into the microphone. "Very simple," he said with a grin.
"I got the message that he did understand my English very good," Federer said. "Credit to him because my Chinese ain't that good."
Federer is hoping to bring more attention to tennis in the Far East.
"It's very important, when I saw the potential and how nice the people are, to promote the game more over here," he said. "Clearly we're waiting for more players to break through from this continent. We had Paradorn Srichaphan [a former top-10 player from Thailand]. We have Kei Nishikori from Japan. Hopefully we'll have more and more players coming up.
"By having such a great tournament, all the top players coming here to Shanghai, I think that's only going to help it. I'm not the only guy promoting the game over here. I think we all really want something to happen in a big way in the next 10, 20 years here."
Federer and Zhang will play the fifth-seeded Ivan Dodig and Marcelo Melo in the second round.
Check out more photos from Monday's match (all pictures courtesy of the Shanghai Rolex Masters):