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Davis Cup Build-Up, Nadal Plays Down Federer Comparisons and Nadal Year-End Number One

*With Grand Slam play over for another year attention turns to this weekend’s vital round of Davis Cup fixtures. France face Argentina in the semifinals in the World Group and French coach Guy Forget is pleased with the squad he has at his disposal despite the absence of top star Jo-Wilfried Tsonga as well as Julien Benneteau. “Michael [Llodra] has the game to bother [Juan] Monaco and Gael [Monfils] can beat anyone. And I feel that Gilles [Simon] is ready,” said Forget while also admitting his selection was “not an easy choice.” This may be referring to his decision to leave Richard Gasquet out of his team who has a disappointing 0-7 career record against top Argentine star David Nalbandian. “You’re not playing for yourself, you’re playing for your flag,” said Monfils. “You have your whole country behind you, an unbelievable crowd, your friends on the side, your captain on the chair. There’s a different spirit.”

*In the other semifinal Serbia square off against the Czech Republic and beaten US Open finalist Novak Djokovic says he is ready to step up to the plate and use the Davis Cup to alleviate his New York pain. “This is one of the key matches and the interest of the Serbian public is huge,” said the new world No. 2. “I’m ready to play in Belgrade, and I don’t think this loss to Nadal will affect my form.” The Czechs will be led by 2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych who crashed out of the first round in the blistering New York heat to France’s Michael Llodra.

*Switzerland face a vital playoff against Kazakhstan to stay in the World Group but will turn to Stanislas Wawrinka to lead them after 16-time Grand Slam Champion Roger Federer pulled out of the tie to concentrate on the ATP Tour. “I need some extra time to relax after the intense weeks in North America so I can finish the year strongly,” said Federer, who lost to Novak Djokovic in that epic semifinal at Flushing Meadows.

*After Rafa Nadal became the third-youngest man to complete the Career Grand Slam in New York on Monday the inevitable comparisons between himself and Roger Federer have resurfaced. Nadal has played down talk of him being the world’s greatest and insists R-Fed is still the man to beat despite the Swiss No. 1 falling to No. 3 in the world. “I think talk about if I am better or worse than Roger is stupid,” said the 24-year-old. “The titles say he’s much better than me, so that’s true at the moment. I think it will be true all my life. For me, always Roger was an example, especially because he improved his tennis I think during all his career, and that’s a good thing that you can copy, no? So I try to copy this and I know Roger and me are different, much different styles. Being better than Roger – I don’t think it’s the right moment to talk about that because I don’t think that.”

*Nadal’s victory in New York means he will now definitely finish as the year-ending world No. 1 for the second time in three years. He becomes only the ninth man in the history of the South African Airways ATP World Rankings (since 1973) to achieve the feat at least twice. Only he and Switzerland’s Roger Federer have taken the top slot since 2000 outlining their dominance of the sport in the last decade. “It has been an incredible season – one of my best ever, if not the best,” said the nine-time Grand Slam winner. “Winning the US Open together with Roland Garros and Wimbledon, as well as the three back-to-back [ATP World Tour] Masters 1000s in Europe, was not easy.  I worked very hard to get back to the top and it feels really good to know I will end the year as No.1.”

*Super mum Kim Clijsters is eyeing the other three Grand Slams after lifting her third US Open title in New York. She has lost twice in the Roland Garros final (2001 and 2003) as well as the Aussie Open final (2004) and has also reached the semifinals of Wimbledon in 2005, last year and this year. “I’ll try everything I can to be in the best shape possible to try and achieve what I’ve achieved here,” she said in her closing press conference in New York. “They all motivate you in a different way. Tactic-wise you always have to adjust a little bit to each and every single one of them. But I think the one where I’ve felt I can do better than I have is obviously at the Australian Open. Similar surface.” For the full interview check out the BBC Tennis website.

*The post-Slam injuries are re-occurring once again. China’s Zheng Jie is the unlucky recipient this time around. She needs surgery on her left wrist and looks set to miss the rest of the year. In better news, Serena Williams has returned to the practice courts following her foot injury suffered stepping on broken glass.

*Dutch women’s wheelchair tennis star Esther Vergeer routed Daniela di Torro 6-0, 6-0 in the US Open final last week to lift her fifth Championship and sixteenth Grand Slam overall. After narrowly beating Florence Alix-Gravellier 7-5, 7-5 in the first round she only dropped one game over the next two matches on route to the final. Even more astonishingly, it was the 29-year-old’s 369th straight competitive victory. During that streak she has only faced one solitary match point; at the 2008 Paralympics. That is a record and a half!

*As tennis now heads to Asia for the climax to the 2010 season Kuala Lumpur has finalised its lineup for its ATP 250 Event, which includes five of the world’s top ten players. This makes it one of the strongest ever lineups for an ATP 250 event. US Open semifinalist Mikhail Youzhny (No. 9), David Ferrer (No. 10) and Nikolay Davydenko (No. 6) join Robin Soderling (No. 5) and Tomas Berdych (No. 8) in a bid for the title.

*The US Open has seen some changes in the South African Airways ATP World Rankings for this week (Sept. 13). Novak Djokvic is the new world No. 2 following his US Open finals appearance with Roger Federer slipping to No. 3. Mikhail Youzhny jumps five places to No. 9 following his semifinal berth while the Spaniard David Ferrer continues an impressive year by reaching No. 10 to make it three Spaniards in the Top 10. Stanislas Wawrinka is rewarded for his run by entering the Top 20 while Argentine Juan Martin Del Potro continues to be scolded for his injuries as he drops 24 places to No. 34 in the world. The Italian Potito Starace is the new world No. 50 while Paul-Henri Mathieu (No. 97) and Edouard Roger-Vasselin (No. 100) add to the French contingent in the world’s Top 100 players.

*The same can be said of the Sony Ericsson WTA World Rankings following last week’s sizzling Slam in New York. Venus Williams is back up to No. 3 in the world while beaten finalist Vera Zvonareva attains a career-high ranking of No. 4. Kim Clijsters drops to No. 5 despite lifting the US Open crown. Elena Dementieva re-enters the Top 10 and another Russian, teen sensation Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova, is the new No. 20 as she continues her fierce assault on the world’s best players; another career best. Kimiko Date Krum continues to defy her younger peers by re-entering the Top 50 and Zuzana Ondraskova (CZE, No. 94), Pauline Parmentier (FRA, No. 97), Varvara Lepchenko (USA, No. 98) and Edina Gallovits (ROU, No. 100) are all in to the Top 100.

*Gisela Dulko and Flavia Panetta have become the first doubles team to qualify for the WTA Year ending finals in Doha.

*Richard Gasquet has split with his coach Gabriel Markus, reports L’Equipe. “I’ve been happy to work with Richard and we’ve had success,” the Argentine coach told the newspaper. “He has improved his ranking and his tennis. I tried to show him my way of seeing things and I did a little, but I think it’ll be more comfortable to continue as before, with Eric Deblicker. They have a very good relationship, and I wish them the best.”

*Another one for stat-fans like myself. This year’s US Open is the fourth time since 2000 that the Top 3 seeds in the women’s draw have reached the semifinals. It is also the third consecutive year the men’s final has been delayed till Monday because of weather.

*The Russian press are reporting that the 2004 French Open Champion Anastasia Myskina has recently given birth to her second child, a boy. She already has a 30-month-old son, Zhenya.