roger federer and rafael nadal

No doubles team up between Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal at this year’s Rogers Cup – Around the corner

After a five week hiatus from the ATP World Tour, the superstars of the circuit are ready to make their presence felt as the Rogers Cup in Montreal is set to begin play on Monday.

Newly crowned number one Novak Djokovic was on site Saturday for a brief media appearance alongside Rafael Nadal to christen, oddly enough, some new green clay courts that Tennis Canada has built on-site. The courts will serve to aid young Canadian players develop confidence on a surface that they rarely succeed on.

Djokovic and Nadal will not be playing together in doubles as they did a year ago when the men played in Toronto. While they were ranked one and two in the world at the time, their rivalry has taken a more serious dynamic with Djokovic beating Nadal in their five previous encounters.

The draw is a tough one for just about everybody in this format, where players will be on court almost every single day. With rain in the forecast early in the week the potential for double-duty also presents itself.

In the top quarter Djokovic will begin the event with a bye followed by a difficult match potentially against Nikolay Davydenko who opens against a qualifier. While Davydenko has been a shell of his former self since returning to the tour following a lengthy layoff in 2010, he still has the ability to test any of the top players and has a respectable 2-3 career head-to-head against the Serb.

Djokovic’s maiden appearance in Canada in 2007 was a self-described key point in the Serb’s ascension to the top of the game. There he beat the top three players in the world one after another in Andy Roddick, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Speaking on his past success at the Rogers Cup, Djokovic said, “I have very nice memories especially from Montreal where I won the title in 2007 and in some ways started this great four years in my career.”

Beyond Davydenko things do not get any easier as Juan Martin Del Potro is his likely third round opponent. Del Potro has steadily been improving since he returned from his own wrist injury which kept him off the tour for eight months in 2010.

Gael Monfils, John Isner and Viktor Troicki are all included in this very difficult top quarter in Montreal. An opening round match between the big-serving Isner and former Aussie Open finalist Marcos Baghdatis is sure to be one worth watching.

In the next quarter we find Roger Federer, a man who is going to be facing dozens of awkward questions about his birthday Monday, where he will officially break into his thirties. Never-mind the fact that the world number three has made the semis in Australia, the finals in Paris and the quarters at Wimbledon – he is sure to be hounded with queries about his inevitable demise.

Federer is eager to finish the year strong and cap it off with a Grand Slam just as he did in 2008. That year he had been unable to win a Slam as well by this point in the season, but finished solid in New York and then returned to form in 2009 by winning his first French Open and another Wimbledon.

He opens in the second round here in Montreal against the victor between clay-courter Juan Ignacio Chela and Canadian youngster Vasek Pospisil (who defeated the duo of Djokovic/Nadal last year with partner Milos Raonic in doubles).

In the third round Roger might have to deal with Jo-Wilfried Tsonga again in a rematch of their Wimbledon quarter-final. Bernard Tomic is also in the realm of potential third round opponents while Richard Gasquet is the likely quarter-final challenge for him. Eighth seeded Nicolas Almagro is the other player with a bye in Federer’s quarter, but usually only excels on the red dirt of Europe.

In the other half of the draw we have Andy Murray and Mardy Fish receiving first round exemptions in their quarter. Fish will get the winner of Radek Stepanek (a finalist at the moment in Washington) or Feliciano Lopez. Murray will see either Pablo Andujar (a wildcard) or more likely big-serving Kevin Anderson. Given Murray’s string of two consecutive Rogers Cups, I’d say he has the definite edge to emerge from this part of the draw.

This section is also littered with veterans like David Nalbandian (who won a practice set today 7-6(4) against Ivo Karlovic), and Juan Carlos Ferrero (seen practicing with Tomas Berdych). Other talented players include Mikhail Youzhny, Ernests Gulbis and Stan Wawrinka. The first round match to keep an eye on here would be Nalbandian vs. Wawrinka. Gulbis vs. Ferrero could also be entertaining while serve and volleyer Michael Llodra could give Youzhny some fits.

Finally at the bottom of the entire draw is where world number two Rafael Nadal finds himself. He will open in the second round against either Ivan Dodig or Jeremy Chardy – a good way to ease back into competition. Nadal looked to be at times favoring his foot during a practice session with Juan Monaco earlier today. He will be available to the media on Sunday and we’ll try to get some more info on that.

Nadal could have fellow-Spaniard Fernando Verdasco in the third round while a quarter-final against Berdych, the 7th seed, seems possible. Berdych will have to contend with Alexandr Dolgopolov perhaps in round two and Gilles Simon in round three. Any of those three players could equally emerge to face Nadal.

Ok, if you’re looking for picks here I’m going to choose the predictable route. How can you not after the way the top-four have been playing? Djokovic has been on fire all year long with the exception of his one loss to Federer in Paris, so he’s almost a sure-shot to make it to the semis. Federer has a great draw and I’m certain he’s itching for another crack at Tsonga. A Djokovic/Federer hard-court semi-final will be the dream of fans and tournament organizers alike here in Montreal. I think they’ll get it.

On the other side, Murray’s performance in the past in Canada and the lead-up to the U.S. Open is well known and should continue. Fish has played a lot of tennis this summer and might not be able to put in 110% with some lingering soreness from Los Angeles. I’d pick Murray over him even if Fish was feeling perfectly rested.

Nadal is giving me some doubts with his behavior in practice today. If his body holds up then you have to think he’ll be in the final four as well, but if not look for Simon or Berdych to take his place instead.

Djokovic taking down Murray in the finals is the best you’ll get out of me. Regardless, we’re about to have a fantastic week of top-level tennis from the fabulous city of Montreal. Enjoy the Rogers Cup everyone and let the speculation for the U.S. Open begin!

 

McEnroe – Connors excited to renew rivalry in World Team Tennis July 14 at Randall’s Island in New York

By Lindsay Gibbs

A rivalry will be renewed this summer as Jimmy Connors and John McEnroe face off on Randall’s Island on July 14. McEnroe’s New York Sportimes will face Connors’ Philadelphia Freedoms in a marquee night for the 36th season of World Team Tennis, ”A Season of Number Ones.”

It’s been ten years since the champions played each other on the World Team Tennis stage, and twenty since their last ATP match, a straight-sets win by McEnroe in the semifinals of Basel in 1991.  The two met 34 times over fourteen years on tour, with McEnroe leading the series 20-14.

The fervor of their rivalry defined a generation and certainly transcended the sport.  “There was nothing quiet about our rivalry… There was so much more that went into it than just the tennis,” Connors reflected on a conference call on Tuesday.  “I would have played him on crutches because that’s what it brought out in me… the desire to be better.”  The fans picked up on the intensity of the rivalry and McEnroe says he still has people come up to him and declaring “I still think Jimmy Connors is better looking than you.”

Today’s tennis fans are used to a much more cordial form of rivalry.  Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal have set the precedent with a heated rivalry on-court but a very professional and friendly relationship off-the-court.  Connors says that he could “never see Mac and I doing a few things that those two have done. “ McEnroe, when talking about the state of the game today, said “if there’s a complaint it’s that everyone gets along too well.”

When asked for predictions on the current crop of top ATP players (Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Federer, and Andy Murray) and their prospects leading into Wimbledon, McEnroe said, “There’s a case to be made for all four.  It’s one of the most interesting Wimbledon’s in some time.”  The two Hall of Famers caused plenty of Wimbledon excitement themselves when they played, as Connors remembers his 1982 Wimbledon Final five-set victory over McEnroe as “probably my greatest performance.”

Both men are looking forward to renewing their rivalry in both singles and doubles on July 14th at Sportime Randall’s Island in New York City.  The evening will be a special benefit for the Johnny Mac Tennis Project , a program to assist the growth of tennis in New York City.     Tickets can be purchased by telephone (212‐792‐8500) or online at www.NYSportimes.com.

A Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic semifinals pictorial from the Mutua Madrid Open

The advantages of having a photographer on the scene is that he will send you photos, more photos and more photos. Have I mentioned yet that he continues to send me photos? I am sure I have. Ralf Reinecke sent me photos of yesterday’s semifinals. So get ready for a whole bunch of photos of Roger Federer defeating Robin Soderling and Novak Djokovic beating David Ferrer.

Roger Federer beat Robin Soderling 7-6, 6-4 while Novak Djokovic defeated David Ferrer 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.  For more info on read my previous report on the semis.  The match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal is the match I am looking forward to the most.

For now enjoy the photos!!

Special credit to Ralf Reinecke.

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Dreadful Federer falls to Nadal in Key Biscayne semifinal

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — It had a “Fight Night” atmosphere, but Friday night’s Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal men’s semifinal at the Sony Ericsson Open was as suspenseful as a first-round knock-out.

A dreadful Federer splattered unforced errors all over the stadium court at the Tennis Center at Crandon Park, falling 6-3, 6-2 to his Spanish rival.

Federer committed an incredible 31 unforced errors – greater the number of points it takes to win a set – in the loss. Nadal, by contrast, played a clean match committing only 10 unforced errors.

Nadal, the world No. 1, will face No. 2 Novak Djokovic in Sunday’s final – a re-match of the final of last month’s BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, Calif., in a match-up that will likely determine Grand Slam tournament titles for the years to come.

Nadal took first control of the match with the No. 3-ranked Federer in the middle of the first set, breaking Federer in the third game of the match and rolling through five straight games from 4-2 up in the first set to 3-0 in the second set.

“It’s always a bit of an adjustment obviously for me coming out and playing Rafa – any lefty, I guess, but him in particular. That’s what made it hard tonight” said Federer, the 16-time major champion who will turn 30 this August. “In the first couple of game you get a break down, and then I felt like conditions weren’t really favoring me as well. It knew it was slow, but just makes it so hard to hit through on him on a surface like this. Then maybe you try to overhit a bit and then obviously I starting taking wrong decisions on big points.”

Said Nadal, “I think I played very, very good match, very solid and serious. First set especially I think I played very, very good. Second set, I think he played worse. He had more mistakes than usual. He tried to play shorter points, so I think second set, he didn’t play well.”

Many of the crowd of 14,638 fans chanted and cheered for Roger in the second-set, hoping to pump him up to get him into the match. However, Nadal continued to tighten his grip on his top rival, with whom he now holds a 15-8 head-to-head advantage in their all-time series.

The match marked the first time in six years that the two tennis icons have played in North America – the last meeting coming in the 2005 final here, Federer winning in five sets.

Roger Federer vs Rafael Nadal at the Sony Ericsson Open: Who has the better song?

With Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal renewing their epic rivalry Friday night in the semifinal of the Sony Ericsson Open, the question has to be asked – who has the better song?

Rafa may be better than Rog on the clay and Rog may best Rafa on the grass, but which player inspired the best lyrics and musical accompaniment? Binge, the cult pop-rock band from Hoboken, N.J., called by American sports and entertainment personality Pat O’Brien as “America’s favorite garage band,” have a song entitled “Grand Slam Man” which is about Federer and another song entitled “Vamos Rafa” which is about Nadal. Both songs are now newly-available for sale on ITUNES here: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/tennis-tunes-ep/id423340011?ls=1

According to ITUNES, since the songs have been made available for sale three weeks ago, Roger holds a slim lead in downloads at 3,790 vs. 3,698 for Rafa. Which fan base – Roger or Rafa’s – will lead their hero to victory on the music charts?

The lyrics to both songs are below.

Vamos Rafa Music
by John Macom

Lyrics by John Macom/Joseph Titone
Performed by Binge
© 2006 John Macom (BMI)/ Joseph Titone (BMI)

Vamos Rafa, vamos Rafa
El Toreador
Vamos Rafa, vamos Rafa
It’s you they adore

The girls go wild when you hit one down the line
You play with such gusto, mucho gusto all the time

Vamos Rafa, vamos Rafa
You’ve got them on the run
Vamos Rafa, vamos Rafa
You should show them your guns

You make King Juan Carlos happy when you win
You’ve got a nasty drop shot and serious, serious topspin

When you leave Mallorca
And get to New Yorka
You will find they adore you too
And your fancy tennis shoes
And your Uncle Tony too

Vamos Rafa, vamos Rafa
Can I borrow your shoes?
Vamos Rafa, vamos Rafa
With them I’ll never lose

Adios amigos see you next time on the courts
In the meantime, por favor, could you do something about those shorts?

Grand Slam Man
(c)(p) 2005 John Macom (BMI) performed by Binge

Roger Federer, you’re getting better-er
Every time I see you play
Roger Federer, that’s what I said-er-er
(You’re) gonna win it any way

He’s your Grand Slam Man
He’s your Grand Slam Man

He’s from Switzerland, he’s a wunderkind
But don’t get in his way
You know he’s hopin’ to win the Open
He’s got the opportunity

Roger Federer, you’re a predator
He’ll attack you from the start
Roger Federer, you’re a shreader-er
He will tear you right apart

He’s your Grand Slam Man
He’s your Grand Slam Man
This one’s for the fans

Roger Federer, you’re getting better-er
I know you always steal the show
Roger Federer, put on your sweater-er
C’mon it’s time to go

He’s your Grand Slam Man
He’s your Grand Slam Man
He’s not just working on his tan…

He’s your Grand Slam Man
He’s your Grand Slam Man
He’s not just working on his tan

He’s even won in Rotterdam…
And they like him in Japan…
He’s your Grand Slam Man

Roger Federer vs. Rafael Nadal: The Greatest Rematch Of All Time?

With the second week of Wimbledon producing a transfer of most of the expected field, the top four specifically, rumblings and chatter have all heightened to the point of jubilation as another bout between Rafa Nadal and Roger Federer looks likely. But, is the rest of the field ready to allow that prized match up? The next two matches for the world’s top two looks anything but easy.

Federer has to go through a red hot Tomas Berdych, who took out the mighty one in a close battle in Miami earlier in the year. Berdych also took Roger to the brink in the 2009 Australian Open taking a two-sets-to-love lead, before Roger suited up in his Federer cape and rescued the show. If he gets through that hurdle, there may be a much renewed Novak “Djoker” Djokovic awaiting him in the semis, who has put together a grass game that looks sharper and sharper, hitting his marks, and stifling his mental demons. Novak has struggled to get an edge in majors against the maestro but in the three set format has proven his mettle. Let’s not forget that when the DJoker gets his cylinders pumping he can beat anyone on any given day, as the 2008 Australian Open has illuminated.

On the other side of the draw stands Rafa, who much like his nemesis has struggled in the early rounds but seems to have gathered some momentum, somehow evading the clutches of early round defeat and packed some wins behind him. He will next face Robin “Smoldering” Soderling in the semis, a rematch of the French Open final in May, and devoid of the comfort of clay, and its forgiving bounce, Rafa may find himself swimming in Mallorca a lot sooner than he wants. There is nothing Roger fans would love to see more on Super Sunday than Rafa wearing a bathing suit. If Rafa gets through that battle, the war may still be looming as Andy Murray could be mounting his front in the semis, armed with a nation and a return to a game style that wields craftiness and cunning mixed with well timed aggression. Murray was able to blast Nadal off the court in the 2010 Australian Open, something he couldn’t duplicate against Federer in the final, which I believe gives him all the more reason to take more risks and may even give him that extra angst, a bit more of an edge; Murray can sometimes come across as a petulant child, moaning and moping, chalk full of lofty expectations, showing improvement daily, and he really believes he deserves to be in the same room as Rafa and Roger. This may be the stage to prove that undeniably. I can’t think of a better stage than Wimbledon.

At this stage of a Grand Slam, at the business end of the tournament, the great ones are separated from the legends. Roddick, picked by many pundits to win it all, couldn’t make the cut, as he went out to underdog Lu, which I think is very telling. If you look at the track record for Federer and Nadal, what speaks to their legacy is the consistency, the will, the heart, the ability to win matches when their opponents are playing stratosphere tennis and they themselves are somewhere in the basement on that day. And on multiple occasions we’ve seen their basement ascension progress as the tournament trudges on. The second week is their moment to shine. Roger’s last two matches have brought replenished faith from loyal fans, walking off center court with straight set victories. In the Melzer match, we saw some vintage Federer with the movement and shot making at a normal level for him, an unreal level for most. This Sunday could be tennis’s version of the ‘Thrilla in Manilla.’ Or maybe the “Greatest Rematch of All Time”?

IS ROGER FEDERER “A BLUBBERING, CRY BABY SISSY BOY?” AS DON IMUS SAYS

By Bob Stockton

It was a year ago that Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal played one of the greatest Australian Open finals ever – and provided for one of the most touching moments in tennis in many years.

At the time, Federer was two major singles titles shy of breaking Pete Sampras all-time record of 14. However, the Swiss maestro was showing vulnerability in that he was going to achieve the goal everyone predicted he would reach. In January of 2009, Federer, as some severe critics characterized, was “reeling” by his very high standards. He was fresh off being jolted by Nadal from the No. 1 ranking – a ranking he held without threat for a record 237 straight weeks. The top ranking and the three titles he treasured the most – Wimbledon, the French Open and Olympic men’s singles gold – were all in the possession of Nadal. He lost the Wimbledon final 9-7 in the fifth set to Nadal, lost the French Open final in the second-most lopsided men’s final ever, and the year before he was also humbled by Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open semifinals, with the Djokovic camp claiming “the King is dead.”

The 2009 Australian Open final was a bitter pill for Federer. He lost an epic five-setter to the man who was taking away everything he wanted. After his 7–5, 3–6, 7–6(3), 3–6, 6–2 loss to Nadal, Federer could not contain his disappointment and could not compose himself in his post-match runner-up speech. Uncontrollably, he began to cry.

Nadal, showing incredible class and respect for the occasion and for Federer, hugged his biggest rival after receiving the Norman Brookes Trophy as the champion. He acknowledged his rival’s pain.

You know that an event crosses into the main stream of the public consciousness when Don Imus, the controversial American radio talk show, talks about it on his “Imus in the Morning” program on 77 WABC in New York and now on the Rupert Murdoch-owned Fox Business television network. Imus, however, surprisingly did not have kind, mushy words for Federer and his emotions, calling him a “blubbering, cry baby sissy boy” following his loss.” Said Imus of his Federer’s fifth-set effort, “He folded like a cheap lawn chair” and of his runner-up check, “He won $700,000 and he is sobbing like a sissy-boy.” Anyone who listens to Imus knows that his “schtick” is to make fun of just about everyone to get a laugh. The hard-nosed New York audience responds well to his critiques, jabs and barbs. No one is safe, including the great Federer.

Nadal’s effort was one of the best of his career, if not in the entire history of the sport. He won his semifinal match against Fernando Verdasco 6-7 (4), 6-4, 7-6 (2), 6-7 (1), 6-4 in 5:14, the longest match in the history of the Australian Open. Said Imus of Nadal after winning the men’s final and semifinal in a combined time of 9 hours, 37 minutes, “If anyone should be crying, it should be him!”

To view the emotional and touching post-match ceremony from 2009:

ANOTHER SCALP FOR HENIN: THE FRIDAY FIVE

By Maud Watson

Henin Collects Another Scalp – The weekend before it was Flipkins and Pennetta, and this past weekend it was current world No. 20, Nadia Petrova. Henin once again vanquished her foe in straight sets in an exhibition match in Cairo. Granted, Henin has not faced the likes of either Williams sister, Clijsters, or any other Top 10 players for that matter, but there’s no denying that she’s looked sharp in the early stages of her comeback.  I, for one, am licking my chops to see what she can do at the 2010 Aussie Open.

The Ban is Lifted – It was nice to see the ITF end things on a positive note for 2009. After what I personally consider some questionable rulings on their part, I was thrilled to read that the ITF did the right thing by agreeing to suspend the bans that had been put on Belgian tennis players Yanina Wickmayer and Xavier Malisse. It is unfortunate that neither player will be able to play the Australian Open given that entries are now closed (unless of course someone is kind enough to offer them a wildcard), but at least they will not be subjected to losing an entire year of their careers.

Back in the Mix – At the end of last week, the IOC announced that Mixed Doubles would be a part of the 2012 Olympic Games in London. It’s been a long time since mixed doubles was included in the Olympics, with American Hall of Famers Richard Norris Williams II and Hazel Wightman being the last pair to compete and win in the event back in 1924. Not sure if it’s too early to start taking bets, but who’s got odds on Serbia or India taking gold?  (And who wishes there were still the possibility of seeing Federer and Hingis take on the competition?)

The Boys are Back In Town – The town of Abu Dhabi that is.  The exhibition will feature six of the world’s top 10 players on the ATP World Tour, including Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.  The event was a great success in 2009, and it’s definitely shaping up as a great way to kick off the 2010 tennis season.

King Juan Carlos – In the annual Spanish Masters event, which was held in Bilbao Spain, Juan Carlos Ferrero proved he still had plenty of game left in the tank, when he defeated countryman Tommy Robredo in a three-set semifinal encounter before going on to take the title over Nicolas Almagro in three tight sets. It couldn’t have been a better way to end the year for the former world No. 1 and 2003 Roland Garros champion, who earlier this year had slipped to No. 115 in the rankings and required a wildcard to play in Wimbledon. He put together a remarkable summer and finished his year just outside of the Top 20.  Fingers crossed that he can build on this success in 2010 and fans around the world will treated to some vintage Ferrero.  Vamos!